Author: Trisha Thomas
Themes: Heartbreak and self-discovery
Intended Audience: Young Adult Females
First Impressions: Upbeat cover, accredited with great reviews.
Netflix is releasing a film adaptation of this novel soon. Normally I'd throw in "the book is always better than the movie" spiel to anyone willing to humor me, but this time I'm rooting for the film and here's why: the film could fill in some gaping holes in the narrative. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Venus Johnston, a successful advertising agent in her thirties, wants her longtime boyfriend Clint to pop the question. Clint, who is a few years younger and still in medical school, finds himself kicked to the curb after he brought home a puppy for Venus' birthday instead of an engagement ring. She isn't getting any younger, and she refuses to wait any longer.
This tale zig-zags between Venus and Clint's lives as they struggle to move on without each other. They would ultimately have to decide whether their relationship is worth saving.
In the beginning of the novel, Venus shaves her head to emotionally detach herself from Clint, or as she put it, to free herself from the beauty rituals that most women put themselves through to make their men happy. Some women, for example, may find freedom in not having to shave their legs or wear makeup. For Venus, the serenity from curling irons, relaxers and hair grease helped her get a fresh start on life without her long permed hair, and without Clint.
From there readers delve into the history of African American hairstyles. I would have liked for the author to explore this more for character development. Instead, she retreats back to the main plot and throws in a twist of unfortunate events for these characters, which does nothing to enhance the overall plot.
Perhaps the biggest letdown is the lack of character development in general. When Clint's new girlfriend, Khandi, and Khandi's former love interest, Tyson Edwards, are woven into the narrative, the story eventually becomes a tangled soap opera with unresolved plot lines. Readers get to peek into Venus, Clint, and Khandi's individual backstories, but it doesn't justify their present day decisions, nor does it provide any defining moments that readers crave.
I didn't lose myself in these characters because the author oftentimes left me hanging with more questions than answers. How am I supposed to feel after reading this book? Did Tyson Edwards continue to harass Khandi, even after she found love with Clint?
Did Venus decide to leave her job after all? You got some splainin' to do, Trisha.
Venus evades the opinions of her family, friends, and colleagues about her new look, but struggles to embrace it because she holds onto hope that Clint will give in and put a ring on her finger. In life you have to create your own happiness and shouldn't rely on anyone to do it for you, and the author uses Venus to deliver this message.
Meanwhile Clint falls victim to the notion that he will have everlasting happiness so long as he is with someone who will mask the pain of loneliness. By settling down with Khandi, a woman he has only known for a few weeks and who started off as a rebound, Clint shows us that he would rather move on and take an uncertain path instead of trying again with Venus, even after she apologizes later and declares her love for him.