After her debut novel Like Home, Louisa Onomé returns with her latest book, Twice as Perfect. In her sophomore novel, Onomé centers on a Nigerian-Canadian family split not only by generational divides but the conflicting hopes and dreams that threaten to tear them apart.
a case of divided identity
Adanna Nkwachi feels split between two identities. Sophie, the name she has adopted at school and around her non-Nigerian friends. Sophie, a debate champion who is law-school bound. Adanna “Ada,” the pride and joy of her Nigerian immigrant parents. Ada, the perfectly obedient daughter. Ada, who, in the wake of her brothers’ disappearance six years ago, feels the pressure to make up for his absence. To be twice as successful, twice as ambitious, twice as perfect.
Ada’s time is consumed by debate club, academics, and helping her cousin Genny prepare for her wedding to renowned Afrobeats star Skeleboy. Her life is right on track to fulfill her parents’ dream of attending law school and a “successful” future (it’s her dream too. . .right?). But when chance (or fate?) brings Ada’s estranged brother Sam back into her life, everything she thought she knew about her family is thrown off its axis.
Sam, who disappeared six years ago after a fight with their parents, left behind his predestined path to become an engineer in favor of pursuing a slam poetry career. While Ada never knew what happened between Sam and their parents, she becomes determined to uncover just what caused Sam to leave all those years ago. But when Sam’s side of the story threatens everything she has come to know, what will Ada choose to believe?
a cross-cultural coming of age
Twice as Perfect centers on many important themes through its main internal and external conflicts. The struggle to balance a particular identity as a cross-cultural kid, the meaning of authenticity, and the weight felt by immigrant children to fulfill their parents’ dreams to make their sacrifices worth the struggle. While many of the characters such as Ada struggle with their inability to speak their family’s native tongue, the book unapologetically includes Igbo phrases as well as Nigerian pidgin. I appreciated Onomé’s approach, which did not focus on translating to cater to a broader audience but instead immersed readers in the language and cultural representation.
Ada often reflects on her struggle to balance her identity as Sophie and Ada, the challenges of discerning her own desires from those entangled with her parents’ wishes, and the ability to come into her own as she approaches adulthood. The book also includes romance, with a semi-love triangle between Ada, her longtime family friend Tayo, and her debate partner Justin.
relevant premise, underdeveloped execution
Twice as Perfect addresses a series of relevant and relatable themes in a book that ties together romance, self-discovery, family conflict, and complex friendships. While the book initially reeled me in with the potential of the first few chapters, it unfortunately fell flat later on. Not long into the book, the pacing began to drag and made it harder to keep reading. Genny’s wedding takes up a large portion of the book, at the expense of fleshing out other, more important aspects of the novel. Onomé attempts to include so many themes and topics that many of them are not given their due diligence. The tail end of the conflict and the resolution felt a bit underwhelming, which made the central issues less believable.
While Twice as Perfect presented an intriguing message, the plot and relationships felt a bit underdeveloped. Unfortunately, this kept the book from being a more impactful and heartfelt read.
Twice as Perfect by Louisa Onomé was released on July 26, 2022.