Reviewing January 2022 Zoella Book Club: Wahala by Nikki May
A story about three thirty-something women of mixed Nigerian and English heritage Ronke, Simi and Boo. Keep reading to find the team’s reviews on this razor-sharp debut from a brilliant new voice!
Dubbed the hottest debut of 2022, Wahala certainly gave us something to smile about this January.
The draft poured out of Nikki May in six months and when you get to know the characters, you’ll understand why.
At the core of the book is a story about three thirty-something women of mixed Nigerian and English heritage Ronke, Simi and Boo. Ronke wants the happy ever after with a man as perfect as her late father. Boo has everything Ronke wants – the 5-year-old daughter, the kind husband, the dream house – but she’s unfulfilled and plagued by guilt. Then there’s Simi, she’s got an amazing job and an even more amazing wardrobe but she’s crippled by imposter syndrome and her husband thinks they’re trying for a baby but she’s still on birth control…
Then the glamorous Isobel, an old friend of Simi’s, explodes onto the scene like a wrecking ball. At first, it seems she’s got everyone’s best interests at heart, she goes running with Boo, she gets Simi an interview in Shanghai but her real motive for infiltrating this friendship group and causing Wahala (which means trouble in Yoruba) propels the narrative all the way to the explosive final chapters.
Keep reading to find the team’s reviews on this razor-sharp debut from a brilliant new voice!
Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English. Not all of them choose to see it that way. Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them. Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.
Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.
What a debut! I devoured it quicker than a bowl of jollof rice. Wahala focuses on three British Nigerian friends Ronke, Boo and Simi. All of them think they want something more from life, whether it be marriage, the fancy fashion job or even agency over their own bodies. Blindsided by what they don’t have, they allow Isobel to manipulate her way into their inner circle and threaten their friendship. They say threes a crowd but in the case of Wahala, it’s most definitely four. Told in alternate points of view, the reader is privy to each of the character’s private thoughts and Iso’s insidious manipulation as it’s happening, which makes for an exhilarating read. May’s use of Nigerian Pidgin was a joy to read and learn about – it flavoured the storytelling with depth, culture and humour. I think the SATC comparisons are by the by, it’s an easy comparison to make due to the female friendship themes but there’s something far grittier at play here. May created a monster with Isobel but what a readable monster she made! If you’re looking for a slow burner with thriller undertones and an explosive ending, consider Wahala your alobam.
Rating: 4/5 Would you recommend? Yes – and make it quick before the tv adaptation drops!
First book of 2022, completed it! I was super excited to jump into this gritty story after seeing Nikki’s Tuesday Takeover on the Zoella Stories which really piqued my curiosity, and hearing the rave reviews roll in certainly had my expectations set quite high. I’ve never seen SATC so although I’d heard those comparisons floating around before delving into the book, I can’t say it impacted my perceptions all too much. I do however love a book focusing on female friendships and loyalty, and Wahala certainly delved deep into these themes and the complexities of adult relationships which kept me curious about the decisions and outcomes of all the characters. Throughout the book I found many of women’s personality traits and decisions somewhat unlikeable- something I don’t tend to gravitate towards when reading- but somehow with Wahala I found myself more intrigued and invested in their fates.
There’s no doubt that the translation of Wahala being ‘trouble’ was apt, as the last few chapters of the book were an absolute whirlwind with a seriously messy ending. I don’t like reading books when you know a ‘twist’ is coming, but I actually think it’s quite useful in this case as a lot of the storyline is character focused and at times I wondered where the story was progressing to. I don’t personally feel that the majority of the book can be classified as a thriller, but the drama that fills the final chapters certainly reclaims this somewhat! In some ways the conclusion felt a little rushed, but I think part of the fun of the book is how little time you have to process this development and I think it was a brave move from Nikki for her debut novel! I’m really glad I read Wahala and it was a great accompaniment during my second round of Covid in Jan!
Rating: 3.5/5 Would you recommend?: Yes!
I loved, loved, loved, WAHALA! This book had so many elements that play into my interests, I love stories about adult friendships and how adult women navigate adulthood and the trials and tribulations that come with it. Getting to learn more about Anglo-Nigerian women and their experiences was such a privilege, and Nikki May’s description of Nigerian food is straight-up mouth-watering! I understand the SATC comparison as it’s 4 young women navigating life in the city but the similarity ends there, which is NOT a bad thing as Simi, Boo, and Ronke have so much more to offer. The book is told from the perspectives of these three characters which worked really well, especially when May also pokes fun at them for their hysteria! A lot of the book it spent getting to know the characters which I really enjoyed reading, there was a bit of a sense of “when is the juicy thriller part coming” which comes further towards the end, but damn if it isn’t worth the wait! I can’t wait to see this book become a series and I would pick up the sequel and devour it in a hot minute!
Rating: 4.5/5 Would you recommend?: Yes, it’s worth the hype people!
Wow Wahala, what an incredible novel! Nikki May’s debut focuses on the lives of three British Nigerian women; Ronke, Boo and Simi who have been friends since University, but now in their 30’s, they are all finding that something is missing from their lives. Enter, Isobel, Simi’s childhood friend, who is ready to cause a whole lot of trouble! Throughout reading Wahala and all of the different storylines, Ronke’s was probably the one I felt most invested in, following her love life and how it seems to fall flat time and time again. Please just let her find a good man!
The ending was intense to say the least… I actually wish that everything had started to unravel a bit earlier on, the last few chapters fly by with so much happening, I would have loved to have read more about it all and see it happen a bit slower. But the plot twists were super juicy and I love a good twist and turn of events, so thumbs up from me!
I didn’t get SATC vibes from Wahala which it has been described to be like, however I do get Big Little Lies vibes from this book. I get the comparison to SATC due to this book being centred around female friendships, but I think there’s a lot more to Wahala, it’s intense and gripping, which is why I see Big Little Lies set in London as more of a comparison!
I really loved learning more about Nigerian culture and traditions throughout, the recipes at the back of the book I’ll definitely be trying too, Ronke’s Jollof rice first!