Novel, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2020
Read 2/4/2022, print, first read
When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a Historically Black College, it’s the first time she’s ever been so far from her family—and the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices and to seek her place in this new world. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past—her mother’s struggle with addiction, her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Ultimately, Ada discovers she needs to brush off the destiny others have chosen for her and claim full ownership of her body and her future.
Description from Storygraph
Novels in verse can be a hard format for me, but when they click, they’re magical. Every Body Looking is a great example of a novel in verse that embraced the form and that I can’t imagine being written in any other way.
Weaving back and forth across Ada’s life, from elementary school through her exploration of her own identity and choices in her first year of college, the story allows the reader to slowly unfold the moments that influence Ada’s life and direction.
At the beginning of the book, she’s very much alone, shaped by the expectations and desires of the people around her. Over the course of the story, we see her begin to take the first steps towards connecting to other people and owning her own interests and boundaries. Her developing interest in dance is beautifully written and I think will resonate with any creative young adult.
Ada herself is a lovely character and her voice springs off the page. Iloh’s sense of rhythm and imagery really make the poetry sing and bring Ada herself to life. I also appreciated that the story is clear-sighted about the adults in her life and the impact of their choices on Ada, while not villifying any of them. Ada’s desire to connect with her mother while also knowing how their interactions are likely to end was especially powerful.
While I did wish that the book spent a little more time on the resolution, Every Body Looking is an engaging story that deals thoughtfully with many of the questions that young adults face in terms of identity, family, and making big decisions about your life.