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Every Body Looking
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A Finalist for the National Book AwardWhen 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...
A Finalist for the National Book AwardWhen 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...
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  • A Finalist for the National Book Award
    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.
    “Candice Iloh’s beautifully crafted narrative about family, belonging, sexuality, and telling our deepest truths in order to be whole is at once immensely readable and ultimately healing.”—Jacqueline Woodson, New York Times Bestselling Author of Brown Girl Dreaming
    “An essential—and emotionally gripping and masterfully written and compulsively readable—addition to the coming-of-age canon.”—Nic Stone, New York Times Bestselling Author of Dear Martin
    “This is a story about the sometimes toxic and heavy expectations set onthe backs of first-generation children, the pressures woven into the familydynamic, culturally and socially. About childhood secrets with sharp teeth. And ultimately, about a liberation that taunts every young person.” —Jason Reynolds, New York Times Bestselling Author of Long Way Down



  • From the book GRADUATION DAY

    Just look at me

    they got me out here

    wearing a dress




    hope Mama’s proud


    she sure does look like it

    looking at me and squealing

    like proud mamas do when

    their baby looks something


    like she came from them


    her squeals bounce

    from every wall of this hotel lobby

    her screams shake from

    her fragile body exploding


    like she’s shocked by her own joy


    unsteady heels click

    against the tile toward the person she can say

    was the best thing she ever did

    with her life

    Here’s the scene: I’m seventeen and graduating

    from high school

    and this weekend I learn to juggle


    my father and his new wife

    are on their way to the Home of the Chicago Doves


    decked out, like they’re about to glide down the church’s red carpet

    him in his crispiest suit, her bulging from a flowered dress


    my baby brother dressed

    as Dad’s mini identical twin


    belted in the back seat

    of my father’s golden Toyota Camry


    is giddy knowing nothing

    about what day it is


    or how his big sister

    will survive it


    after picking up her own mommy

    keeping her seated somewhere


    she can fidget

    far from his side of the family

    Mama fidgets

    in my passenger seat

    more on edge than me

    maybe cause it’s been

    like five years since we’ve seen

    each other but she is here


    scoffs under her breath

    thinking, just like her

    this hoopty is proof

    of yet another thing

    I don’t need


    shrugs away small thoughts

    not knowing

    Dad demanded

    I save and buy my first Camry



    sits and tugs

    at her lopsided wig

    pulls down the mirror

    reapplies bloodred lipstick

    smudges some on her cheeks

    with her fingers


    and I thank god knowing

    without this

    I may not

    recognize her

    We pull into my high school’s parking lot

    for the last day I will ever have to smile at these people like I ever belonged here / for the ten minutes it takes Mama and me to get to the stands along the football field, a place she has never seen / I imagine the sounds of our heels to be / like a song we are for once dancing to together / today / I’m not angry / at her slurred speech / I’m not angry / at her missing teeth / I’m not angry / at her fuss / I’m not angry / that she looks nothing like / the last time I saw her / or that / I don’t know when the next time will be / for the ten minutes it takes Mama and me to get to the stands along the football field / I’m just happy we’re both here / alive

    My name is Ada

    but not really

    it’s what my father’s side

    calls me cause I was born




    and on this day

    I’m only three months

    from leaving this place behind


    they tell me there’s

    a big world out there

    and they tell me


    there’s so much I can do

    and I know nothing

    but this city


    but my father

    but these schools

    where I’ve...


  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2020
    A Black girl's journey from a stifled life to self-discovery through dance. Seventeen-year-old Ada grew up in Chicago with a Nigerian immigrant father who raised her in line with his strict, traditional Christian values. Her mother struggled with addiction and was mostly absent, both physically and emotionally. Ada was indoctrinated to be submissive to her elders and learned to suppress vital parts of herself, from her opinions to her love of dance. Brought up to keep so much of her life a secret, Ada has even kept quiet about a tragic sexual assault at the hands of her older male cousin. She is finally given the physical freedom she had been denied her whole life when she graduates high school and heads to college in Washington, D.C. There, she starts to unpack what she has been taught by her dysfunctional family and begins to bloom and unlock those guarded parts of herself. In the end, Ada reclaims her body and her life through dance, exploring her own beliefs and values and finding her voice. Iloh uses verse beautifully to show readers the world through Ada's eyes, incorporating flashbacks and time jumps to piece the whole picture together. With complex relationship dynamics and heavy-hitting issues like rape, overbearing and neglectful parents, and addiction, this book will leave readers deeply affected. A young woman's captivating, sometimes heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful story about coming into her own. (Verse novel. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2020
    Grades 10-1 *Starred Review* High school's finally over, and Ada's off to college at an HBCU 697 miles away from her home on Chicago's North Side. No longer is she bound by her father's incessant prayers, his imposition of a God she is not even entirely sure she will continue to follow. Nor is Ada subject to the delicate handling of her temperamental mother or managing her far too predictable outbursts. But with thousands of miles between them, and the freedom to finally be herself, Ada reckons with the weight of her life's experiences and long-suppressed desires as college life messily unfolds. Her magic, though, is found in dance, where her body is free to say all of the things that her mouth hasn't yet had the boldness to. In her debut novel in verse, Iloh delicately crafts Ada's life, meshing her understanding of herself in the experiences of her past. This effectively oscillates readers through time, with the narrative voice sometimes dating back to early childhood, imparting deep underlying knowledge of the values she was taught, the cultures that shaped her, and the traumas she can't quite let go. This title references substance abuse and sexual assault of a minor, each instance adding devastating complexity to the woman Ada eventually becomes. This book is a testament to the beauty of Black girls, their circumstances, bodies, and cultures. A title to read slowly, this is a captivating read, with even more depth imbued in the formatting and play with white space.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2020

    Gr 7 Up-Ada, pronounced Aah-dah!, means "first daughter" in Igbo and, as Ada shares, such a name carries the heavy weight of expectations. Written in verse, Ada's narrative unfurls from her high school graduation, then jumps around in time while she navigates her early college days at an HBCU, dipping in and out of scenes from first, second, and sixth grades. Pivotal and sometimes wrenching episodes are seared into each of these time periods, from sexual abuse in first grade to a betrayal of her privacy by an aunty who arrives from Nigeria in sixth grade. Iloh poignantly captures the tension and jagged emotion required for Ada to juggle her needy and absent mother with the heavy expectations of her father, all while trying to figure out who she really wants to be. Amidst all this uncertainty and seeking lies dance. While Dad is the one to introduce Ada to dance lessons to connect her to his home country, it is the deep desire for movement that consumes Ada and begins to pull her in the opposite direction of his more practical aspirations for her. VERDICT Readers will be left wishing they could accompany Ada as she pursues her passion and finds her way to a genuine relationship, while left hopeful and inspired by her beautifully-told story.-Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 19, 2020
    In this remarkable novel in verse, introspective Ada moves out of her Nigerian father’s home in Chicago to begin her freshman year at an unnamed historically Black university in Washington, D.C., where she experiences the anxieties and rewards of living independently and making her own decisions. However, traumatic memories of her past persistently haunt Ada, particularly the volatile relationship she has with her estranged mother who suffers from addiction, the gendered expectations that accompany her father’s Christianity, and a childhood sexual assault. Uninspired by her accounting classes, Ada meets Kendra, a charismatic Black dancer, who encourages her to pursue her secret lifelong love of dance. As their relationship deepens beyond friendship, and dance becomes a priority, Ada must bridge the gaps between her past, her father’s projections of her future, and how she wants to define herself and her life. In this stunning debut for young adults, Iloh crafts succinct, beautiful poems to illustrate the difficulties of navigating the tangle of family history and obligation, the power of art to heal and express, and the strength it takes to chart an authentic, independent path. Ages 12–up. Agent: Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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