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Every Body Looking

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Every Body Looking is a debut novel in verse tells the story of Ada--daughter of an immigrant father and an African American mother--and her struggle to find a place for herself in America and in her own family.

Every Body Looking is a heavily autobiographical novel of a young woman's struggle to carve a place for herself--for her black female body--in a world of deeply conflicting messages.

Told entirely in verse, Ada's story encompasses her earliest memories as a child, including her abuse at the hands of a young cousin, her mother's rejection and descent into addiction, and her father's attempts to create a home for his American daughter more like the one he knew in Nigeria.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published September 22, 2020

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About the author

Candice Iloh

6 books98 followers
Candice Iloh is a first generation Nigerian-American writer, teaching artist, and youth educator. She is a graduate of Howard University and holds an MFA in writing from Lesley University. Her work has earned fellowships from Lambda Literary and VONA among many others. Her debut novel, Every Body Looking, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

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5 stars
734 (22%)
4 stars
1,372 (41%)
3 stars
955 (29%)
2 stars
156 (4%)
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60 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 572 reviews
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,783 followers
July 30, 2021
Every Body Looking is one of those books that reads quickly but packs a hell of a punch and makes you feel everything in your body and soul for the main character. This is also one of those books that is so traumatic that I can't say that I "enjoyed" it, but it is a story that needed to be told.

Every Body Looking is a hard look at the ways in which people and trauma makes self-identity complicated. Told in verse from the present and through a series of flashbacks, this book focuses on Ada as she is about to enter college. She comes from a traditional Nigerian household where her father expects her to maintain her faith and study hard in school. Ada is constantly smothered by his need to recreate and maintain the same environment that he was raised in. In addition, Ada is burdened by her mother's descent into drug addiction. Even on her graduation day, Ada knew that it was better to make it more about her mother than herself to maintain the peace. The flashbacks of Ada's life are particularly hard to adjust to due to the descriptions of abuse; however, they are important to the narrative as they inform Ada's behavior in college. While there she questions her sexuality, loses herself in an attempt to maintain the attention of a boy, and falls further in love with dancing. For a lot of young Black women and young Black children of immigrants, this story will illicit feelings of understanding/"being seen." It's about attempting to fulfill the wants and needs for everyone else while neglecting yourself. It's about learning and growing from those mistakes and finally doing what makes you happy. It was hard to see Ada take certain things from people, including her father, because she wanted to please them. It was even harder to see how much she questioned why she didn’t receive the love from her mother that she deserved. It made her question a lot of things about herself and the relationships that she held with those around her. Eventually, she had to realize that in order to figure out who she was and what made her happy it was necessary for her to live her own life and not for others.

There were a few things that I wanted explored a little bit more in detail especially some aspects of the trauma that would eventually influence her life as an adult. The time jumps really tie the story together to give a complete picture of the pain and heartbreak that Ada experiences; however, I can see how a non-linear story may not appeal to every reader. Overall, this was a good read and I appreciate Iloh for sharing it with us.
Profile Image for Melanie (mells_view).
1,709 reviews331 followers
September 22, 2020
that I’m too loud
too much
too free

Every Body Looking is sort of a coming of age and coming into yourself while also trying to live up to family expectations and cultural expectations. I have actually never read a story like this written in verse, and while it took me a minute to really catch on to the flow or maybe even the freeness of verse, I eventually fell in love. Ada is the daughter of an immigrant father and an African-American mother. Her mother suffers from addiction and her father has placed heavy expectations on his first born daughter.

I loved this story because it is a journey. Where Ada finds herself in her culture, but also struggles with being herself because of cultural expectations placed on her by her father. I love the way that freedom is shown from freedom as a middle schooler and getting to just dance and be yourself for an hour, then having to hide who you are. Then the jump to being in college and really having that freedom to find yourself and then actually be yourself.

This is just an amazing story. It’s beautiful and at times it’s tough, but it also has that level of realness and relatability even if you were raised with a different upbringing.

I recommend this to anyone looking for a poetic coming of age from an own-voice author!

*ARC provided by Penguin Teen through NetGalley
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,399 reviews11.7k followers
January 25, 2021
Printz Honor 2021

2.5 stars

3hrs on audio. I don't really get the awards. The poetry itself is nothing special. The story is only half compelling and half finished, with some very strong threads, but with huge portions simply boring, which is a travesty, considering how short this is.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
February 3, 2023
2.5 Stars

This tackled some important issues but for me it lacked depth and felt unfinished. I have read a huge number of verse novels and prefer the language to be more lyrical than in this novel. I'd like to read the book to see if the layout of the words creates more impact than the audiobook which I suspect will be the case.

Profile Image for Tori.
31 reviews62 followers
December 18, 2020
I'm beginning to truly love books written in verse.
Profile Image for Tzipora.
207 reviews161 followers
November 18, 2020
Oh, this book! Candice Iloh is a remarkably talented, powerful, and beautiful writer. I’m picky about novels in verse and I’ve never listened to one in audiobook format before but this book. Oh! Easily a book that truly needed to be told in this format. I think there may be a few caveats to the format and a couple of small things I would’ve liked more of in the book but the verse format works so astoundingly well here and how beautifully it nails coming of age and dance and all that dance is and means to someone who is passionate about it. And being a queer woman who loves to dance. Oof. On some level I’ve been longing to read exactly this book since I was ten years old.

But let me back up, reign in my excitement a little because I know this is a book not getting near as much as hype as it deserves. So as mentioned, Every Body Looking is a novel in verse. It’s YA but it’s really at that borderline of YA and adult fiction. Ada is graduating high school at the beginning of the book and we follow her to college- the first in her family to go, to Howard in scholarship. Ada is the daughter of a Nigerian immigrant father who first put her into African dance classes as a way to teach her her people’s history and culture, and an African American mother who is a difficult and complex woman who Ada has a difficult relationship with. The book is told linearly through her first semester but also with jumps back to points in her childhood. It works fantastically and is maybe the best I’ve seen a novel in verse do at illustrating who a character and their history is, but is there’s any weak point in this novel, I think I wish we had gotten a little more there or developed some of the stuff with her familial relationships further.

Ada has the hopes and dreams of her family laid upon her, plus the added complexity of being the child of immigrant and being both African American and Nigerian (so a type of Black story I don’t think we see enough of). But what Ada lives for, and what her father seems to find frivolous, is dance and art. This book hit a kind of magical trifecta in this way for me- a young woman who loves dance, loves drawing dancers and who she wants to be, and the whole novel in verse thing. It’s very obvious to me the author and I share this multifaceted love of the arts, and these specific arts and that made this something special for me.

I have never really been able to put into words all that dance in particular meant to me, how much in a sense it still does and always will. My relationship with dance is complicated. Especially by illness and I’ve always said that dance is the anti-illness- to be able to so completely and unquestionably trust your body to do these amazing things. The feat of dancing, the way a dancer inhabits their body with such power, force, control, and grace- it is something I never fully appreciated until I was left with the opposite and living in a body that as I so bluntly like to put it is technically incompatible with life, wouldn’t be alive without a form of life support (something which, I admit, is kind of a miraculous feat all its own). There is so much about bodies, about art, about life and passion and identity that are never easy to fit into words or explain. But Iloh nails what dance is and feels like in this book. Oh my gosh, does she ever.

At one point I was so enraptured because she wrote about the experience of being a class that was difficult but inspiring, thinking you can’t possibly do those steps and finding out you can, about the ways a truly great dance teacher speaks, encourages, and inspires. It so vividly took me back in time to being a teenager at the dance studio, to how for me much advice for Ada, that was the one space that made sense, where I made sense, how I’d choose to be there above any and all else.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the queerness of this book. And this understated but very clear way her queerness is connected to dance. The world of dance, like all art forms, had an extensive queer history, yet was (and I imagine in many ways still is, can’t comment as it’s a world I haven’t really inhabited for a long time) also fraught with an intense homophobia or more specifically lesbophobia. Dance may have long been a space where gay men felt especially welcomed and embraced but was a uniquely confusing and painful space for me as a young lesbian. All the more so because my very first love, the woman who made me realize I was a lesbian in the first place, was one of my dance teachers. And I cannot put into words how powerful and incredible it was to listen to this book and see that connection and this thing that I had experienced too and felt so alone in and to finally realize I wasn’t the only one. Literally, I’ve been longing for this book since I was 10 years old. I’m neither 10 nor 18/19 and coming of age like Ada, but damn did it feel so good for my soul to finally receive this long needed thing.

This book was special for me in a way so deeply personal I’m not sure I can ever really explain it. And I imagine most readers won’t have the same connection. I first added it to my TBR after my Chicago bookstagram buddy Tashay read and loved it and I know it was a book that spoke very powerfully and personally to her and in different ways (and maybe some similar ways as well, as we are both queer women) than it to me. This is the magic of own voices authors and books especially when it comes to multi-marginalized folks. That there are still people out there who would look at a book like this, see those multi-marginalizations and insist the book has too narrow or limited of an audience boggles my mind. And I always wonder when discussions happen about reading own voice books and authors, if people realize that you can still connect just as personally with books even when their authors or characters are different from you. Or that there are aspects of this book that are so different from my experiences but then the queerness and dance stuff that spoke to my soul in a way I’d been longing to hear for decades. This is the magic of a good book, period.

That all said, because my connection to this book is so personal, I realize this review maybe isn’t wildly helpful. It’s a beautiful book with gorgeous language. If you are an artsy type- but especially a dancer- there’s so much magic here. If you share any of the intersections with the author or main character, there’s that. And whether you love or hate or have just never experienced novels in verse- I’d recommend trying this one. But personally, oof, I’m so damn grateful for how this book touched me.

“All I know is when he turns the music on I become a slice of someone I’d always wished I could be. All I know is that I wanted to see the girl in my reflection keep up for once, see her do the steps like they came from somewhere inside.”

“To a random person a dance studio is nothing but a room with funny floors that kind of spring when you jump on them. Funny floors that sometimes you’ve gotta take your shoes off to move on. A random person who’s never danced in one before might not understand all these mirrors, all this space, or that these four walls are something more than just a room that bodies make things up in, might not understand counts or how to let the beat guide you, how to let it speak all the words you don’t have today. Today it lets me cry in it. For the first time in months, in a room all by myself, I don’t have to be anything but this. I don’t have to explain everything I hear, everything I feel. Everything I am is mine.”
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,040 reviews3,438 followers
September 11, 2020
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

Every Body Looking is a hard-hitting coming of age story told in verse that creeps up on you and kind of rips your heart out. Please use caution and check trigger/content warnings if needed because this was much more intense than I had anticipated, but I think this will strike a chord with a lot of people. Note that this review does contain "spoilers" due to discussing abuse and sexuality in the book. If you're sensitive to spoilers, be aware.

Ada is the daughter of a Nigerian immigrant and an African American woman, her mom struggling with an unnamed mental illness as she comes in and out of her life. The book goes back and forth across multiple timelines, adding context to what is happening and the things Ada is struggling through. At the beginning she is graduating from high school and much of the book is set during her first semester of college, with sections flashing back to first grade, second grade, sixth grade, and high school as we see the trauma and difficult life experiences Ada has gone through. This includes being molested by a family member as a six-year-old, and then we see the ramifications of that into adulthood. Like I said, it's an intense one, but it's also a book about healing, freedom, and being unafraid to step into who you really are.

Part of Ada's journey is coming to terms with her sexuality after growing up in a deeply religious and conservative household. Content warnings for a brief scene of sexual exploration with another girl at 7 years old, and while childhood sexual abuse often results in early sexual behavior and acting out as a response to trauma, I wish the author had addressed that in a more nuanced way. It reads like an indication that perhaps Ada isn't really straight, which may be true but the reasons for that happening at such a young age are more complex and are related to the abuse she experienced. Especially as this is a book for young people, I wanted to see this talked about on some level.

That said, in general I found this to be compelling and I felt deeply for Ada. I think this does a fantastic job of capturing what going away to college for the first time is like. You're away from family, discovering new parts of yourself, contending with a possibly changing worldview, and perhaps learning that you don't want to do or be what you thought or what your family expected of you. It's a time of transition and often emotionally difficult experiences that can be transformative if allowed to be. It's nice to see a YA novel that is addressing this critical period. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Content warnings include child molestation by a relative (on page, main character), sexual touching between young girls, incurred fatphobia, traumatic experience with a gynecological exam, college sexual experiences of dubious consent, male characters engaging in misogynistic and sexually manipulative dialogue.
Profile Image for Toya (the reading chemist).
1,126 reviews96 followers
September 30, 2020
I’m really torn with this one because I typically love novels written in verse, but this one felt more like a novella that wasn’t quite complete. More thoughts to come.
Profile Image for Oyinda.
661 reviews157 followers
January 22, 2021
This was a (very) short book, but still very good and extremely insightful. It's written in verse - I listened to the audiobook and haven't seen it in print so I can't say much about the written flow. The audiobook however read a lot like prose. It follows Ada, a first-gen daughter of a Nigerian immigrant father and an African American mother.

Ada's life is far from perfect. Her father is strict and religious and doesn't understand her. Her relationship with her mom, who struggles with addiction, is frayed. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her father. At the start of the book, she hadn't seen her mom in 2 years, and she lives with her dad.

The story is told in a non linear timeline that shuffles between the present (Ada's freshman year at an HBCU) and different points in Ada's life and childhood. There are so many unlikeable characters in this book, and there are topics like addiction, slutshaming, feeling out of place in school, sexual identity, forced outing, and so on. Ada is a closeted lesbian, a dancer, and a girl with many secrets - these play into the story in many ways. Told in first person, we get to feel a lot of Ada's pain, wants, and needs first hand. She struggled to understand why she was not enough to keep her parents together and why she isn't deserving of her mother's love and affection.

This is the first book in the "Ada" series, and I hope other books are longer and we get to know more about Ada and her journey.
Profile Image for Allie (alliewithbooks).
337 reviews598 followers
February 16, 2021
TW: sexual assault

I really enjoyed this novel in verse. It was a very emotional read, and definitely something that will weigh heavily on me. I saw parts of myself in this novel, and they were difficult parts to confront but it was also refreshing to see it talked about in a book.

I think my only critique is that I wish it was longer. I love novels in verse, and typically I feel like I’ve gotten a complete and well-rounded story like with Long Way Down or The Poet X. But with this book it felt like too short of a snapshot. I wish it had gone on just a little bit longer and I feel like it would have benefited from that.

Otherwise, I loved this novel and if you are able to, please read it!
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
January 25, 2021
3 stars

This is a book that I wish had been longer. I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with these characters and this story, but because it was so short, I found that a lot of it felt very one-dimensional to me and it ended up leaving a lot of things unexplored when I think there was a lot of potential there. I thought the writing style was really pretty and I really enjoyed the way this book juggled the two timelines that the central parts of the story take place in, but I still wanted more depth to the characters and maybe a little more time spent exploring the topics that this book only briefly touched on. The ending was very cute, though!

trigger warnings: rape, emotional abuse, neglect, lesbophobic comments
rep: Nigerian-American wlw MC, Nigerian-American side characters, Black side characters
Profile Image for TL .
1,819 reviews35 followers
October 12, 2020
I won this via goodreads giveaways, all my opinions are my own.

I wanted more from the ending (compliment) and to see to where Ada would go next:).

This was a wonderful experience, this book helped make a bad week and day just a little bit better <3

Would recommend 👌.
Profile Image for Monte Price.
623 reviews1,693 followers
July 20, 2022
We're just going to pretend as though I haven't been sitting on this arc for going on two years... Yeah? Yeah... let's do that.

I would also like to say that I don't really know how to judge this. Objectively novels in verse are really shaping up to be not my jam, I don't think that I've ever read one and felt it hit as intimately as hard as other readers have.

There were elements of this that I enjoyed more? Though that might simply be because I waited for two years to pick this up I was able to get the audiobook from my library and for once I had the author giving the words the rhythm they were intended to have when written. So on that front I thought that the work was successful. On the other hand there were a couple of plot elements that I wanted more of? It's wild that this book is over four hundred pages because I think we could have definitely been a little longer, could have spent more time in the college section of her life? I feel like we got a lot of Ada's childhood and history but I really liked what was happening in the present and wanted more of that.

If you were a fan of The Poet X I think that you could appreciate this. In part because of them both being in verse, but also centering main characters raised in very religious homes and what that means for them as they come of age and come into themselves.

Past Monte clearly wanted to read this, and I think Present Monte definitely got something out of it, and would recommend to others... just don't know how to quantify any of that on a five point scale.
Profile Image for Nev.
1,051 reviews135 followers
February 2, 2021
Every Body Looking follows Ada as she’s growing up as a young Black woman in the US. The narrative covers some serious topics like divorce, being a child of immigrants, and childhood sexual assault. The importance of dance and how that art form impacts Ada is another major part of the plot. The story goes back and forth between bits and pieces of Ada’s life as a child and her first year at college.

The book is written in verse and in this instance I think that slightly hindered my enjoyment. I felt like the story was so brief that things weren’t as fully explored as they could’ve been. It seemed like the climax of the story happened and then the book was just over rather than getting to see the resolution and outcome of the big final thing. I still think that this is a really worthwhile read, but I just wish that it was a little bit longer.
Profile Image for Pretty_x_bookish.
269 reviews419 followers
February 15, 2021
This novel in verse is going to resonate with Black girls and women - especially Black African first or second generation immigrants. It’s the way that Candice unpacks the dislocation and feelings of otherness that come with being in spaces where you don’t quite fit. It’s the way she

One thing that is touched on in this book that I was glad she included is how even is ‘Black’ spaces...being tangibly African can make you ‘other’. The fact that even the African American girls in school with Ada would laugh at her and isolate her as ‘other’ because she is Nigerian is something I think we don’t talk about enough. The notion of a unified Black
sisterhood is often more of a theory than a reality for girls like Ada.

The relationship between Ada and her father was also very interesting to me. In him, I saw so much of the struggles of being a Black parent - actually any immigrant parent - trying to raise your children in an unfamiliar environment. The way he clung onto the church and his constant insistence that they pray and ask the lord for protection was something I think a lot of people can relate to.

Seeing a father love his daughter in the only way he knows how - by wanting the best always for and from. It’s the kind of parental love that is both a comfort and a burden. In these pages, you see Ada trying to become herself while also trying not to disappoint her father. It’s a weight I think a lot of us carry - especially those of us whose parents have scaled unimaginable mountains to get where they are.

What Candice captures in such heart aching accuracy is how the then and now are indelibly tied together. The book jumps between Ada a child and Ada as a young woman in college, finally on her own. The back and forth of the chapters really gives the reader the sense that the child Ada was - and her experiences of childhood - are tied to who she is. In beautiful verse - Ada’s struggle to step into herself while dealing with childhood trauma and parental disappointments - is articulated with heart and honesty.

My only criticism is that I found it to be a bit long - there was a bit of repetition in some parts which I think could have been streamlined. But otherwise, this is a strong debut. I will definitely be looking out for more from Candice.

PS: This is perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo!
Profile Image for Kira Thebookbella.
524 reviews94 followers
February 10, 2021
"when you start growing further away from what used to be home you go looking for somewhere that lets you be what’s inside your head"

TW: rape, fatphobic comment,

This is a coming of age story about young Ada, who is getting ready to go to college. This story is told entirely in verse. The story oscillates between her personal development and self discovery during her first semester in college, and the events that defined her throughout her childhood. We see her as a new adult and as a child and then a teen and then a highschool graduate. You don't know all the details at first, every section adds a new piece to the puzzle like a slow unveiling of the whole picture.

I got the impression her childhood was really sheltered by her religious father, and also really toxic that were defined by the moments she spent with her mother. Fortunately, her mother didn't live with Ada and her father. But even living with her father had its down side. Ada grew up learning from her father that money was so important and he never really taught her to be happy.

For all of Ada's life, she loves to dance and hides that fact from her father as she pays for dance classes that she never talks about.

This is a story about learning how to validate your own actions by doing what makes you happy. When she is first learning about boys, she learns what it means for boys to have expectations of her. But she slowly matures into finding out what makes her happy.

The self talk of the main character was very raw and full of the weight you feel when you have to make the people around you happy. I loved how honest it was and how much I found it emotionally engaging.

Overall I really enjoyed this story and I loved the feminist quality this had as well as the blooming independence of our protagonist.
Profile Image for TimInColorado.
225 reviews24 followers
January 23, 2022
So many wonderful aspects of this YA story. The best novel in verse I've encountered, beautifully read by the author. The dance descriptions were brilliant, capturing the confluence of internal feelings, the space of the dance studio, being conscious (or not) of the instructor and other dancers. Loved Ada's sensitivity to her father who relied so heavily on religion as a single parent, and her growing into the realization that she doesn't need religion in the same way. I found myself sympathizing with her father a great deal - I saw my own parents in him, the way he wanted so much to give his child all the guidance, love, and support needed and sought the support of religion to teach him how to be that sort of provider.

Iloh really captures the full voice of a young woman leaving high school and going off to college, that process of growth and maturation. One is consciously deciding what their adult relationship will be with parents and realizing that their parents also have to grow into understanding their adult child. One reflects on their formative childhood experiences, choosing what to take with them into adulthood and what messages they've internalized that need to be challenged.

Really enjoyed witnessing Ada's journey of growing to like herself, how she learns to respect her desires and gains confidence in putting herself first, in owning her strengths and her weaknesses. I look forward to more books by Iloh, hopefully sharing more of Ada's journey. Really appreciated the #ownvoices aspect of this from a #queer and #bipoc author. The story deals with universal themes, very relatable. But there's an authenticity and texture to Ada as a young Black woman that comes from lived experience.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,408 reviews190 followers
May 24, 2021
Every Body Looking centers on Ada, whose life is determined by her parents. Between a father who is strict about his expectations and a mother who is an addict and an alcoholic, Ada has never had much agency in her own life. All of that changes when she starts her first year at a Historically Black College and finds that her choices are her own.

This book is all about questioning. Questioning your sexuality, your identity, your passions, your boundaries, your life. Ada is coming into herself and is finding that she needs space from her emotionally abusive mother. As well as the chance to pursue something she loves: dance. She also meets a dancer named Kendra and finds a true friend who might just be more.

Nothing was wrapped up completely in this book, but the way it ended it felt right. We see Ada has finally decided to take her own agency in hand and that she knows she has the power to choose. This book was beautiful and powerful and full of discovering self love.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
543 reviews9,830 followers
February 17, 2021
I read this book in fall 2020 and then listened to it on audio in winter 2021. This one didn't work for me. Not enough happened for me and the verse didn't add to my reading or listening to the book. There is some good stuff going but over all it was a let down. To be fair, I don't read many novels in verse, and I might not have the skill set to read a book like this.

Iloh clearly respects the hell out of young people and doesn't talk down to them. The book is mature, not in a content way, but in a style way. It certainly doesn't have to be YA. It is sort of sleepy and in a Sunday morning kind of way. The story takes on huge ideas of self, belonging, pleasure, and family but in a very understated way. I really appreciated the stuff about dancing and the general idea about using movement to find self. As a dancer I could relate and hadn’t experienced writing about dance in this way.
Profile Image for ✨Veruca✨.
276 reviews5 followers
February 27, 2022
First of all, I was NOT expecting this book to be in verse. I’m not sure if it needed to be either since Ada didn’t have a connection to poetry. The time jumping was another interesting concept that I’m not sure how I felt about it. I did enjoy the eye-opener to Nigerian culture and complex family relationships.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
543 reviews9,830 followers
October 18, 2020
I couldn’t really get into this book. There were parts I liked and other stuff I missed. The humor was subtle and appreciated.
Profile Image for Misse Jones.
456 reviews31 followers
January 22, 2021
I’m thinking this is what it’s like when you’re too far above everything for regular life to matter // that old life in Chicago where I was my old me // everyone telling me about this new person I’ll be while begging me not to change at the fame time // new city new people but always new in Christ // youth pastor always teaching how God transforms us by washing us clean // I’m wondering about this new feeling god might give me fat from hands once laid on me. — From “The Summer Before College”

Everybody Looking is a very solid debut written in verse by Candice Iloh. It follows the coming age story of Ada who is graduating high school at the novel’s opening and follows her through her demanding first year of college. Ada comes from a family full of expectations. A father who expects the very best of her and wants her to be a success as well as honor the requirements of her cultural heritage while keeping religion at the forefront of her very being. A mother who has not had a consistent presence in her life and proves to be more of a distraction as Ada tries to navigate the pressures of family and college life. Alternating between her early childhood and the present, we are able to see all that has happened to Ada and all that she is trying to overcome.
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, molestation, and verbal abuse permeate Ada’s story.

Ada finds comfort in dance and when she stumbles upon a dancer at school whom she fully relates to, she gives it a go and begins to reclaim her own concept of identity and who she is beyond everyone else’s expectations.

What I enjoyed most about Iloh’s debut is that it is ultimately a story about healing and all of the things we go through to get to it. Even when we do not realize it is the path we are on. A definitely think it’s one you should add to your TBR! I’m very much becoming a huge fan of novels in verse and this is really well done.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,190 reviews724 followers
February 17, 2021
Printz Honor 2021. I’m so conflicted on how to write any kind of review because the reading experience gave me such a visceral bleak and ugly feeling that I want to scream that no one should ever read this and what the hell, why wasn’t there a content warning about the childhood sexual trauma in the jacket copy???? There is a reference to that here in Goodreads, but not on the jacket, which is what I read before jumping into it.

And then I go to thinking that maybe this book just 100% wasn’t for me - me being a HSP and loving happy stories.

And then I go back to thinking what the hell, the book description on the jacket copy didn’t portray what kind of book this really is. And then, damn Printz committee - I never would have subjected myself to that if it weren’t for you.

And then I think, maybe that’s what good art is? Making people feel super uncomfortable? I won’t attempt to critique the writing at all. It’s in verse which I typically love.

I’m just still reeling from reading something that made me feel so horrible, and all I can say is don’t go into this thinking it’s a story about college. Or dance really. Or maybe I guess it is, but it’s not a STORY in the sense I expected. It reads much more like a memoir, which again, the Goodreads description gets right but the jacket copy doesn’t.

Actually, just go into it knowing that it includes childhood sexual trauma. And that I loved Brown Girl Dreaming, With the Fire on High, Clap When You Land, Black Flamingo - all books some other readers compare this too, but aren’t comparable for me in terms of emotions it evoked in me. And maybe it’s the exact book you or another reader need and that’s wonderful too.
Profile Image for Emily.
1,265 reviews333 followers
October 4, 2020
It's been a while since I read a novel in verse, and I enjoyed Every Body Looking! It was the perfect format for this story, and I loved reading about Ada's journey. I really struggled with college, and this book was so relatable. It was stressful to read at times, but in a good way. It's well-written, and Ada feels like such a realistic character. There are some heavy topics in here, and everything is handled well. The ending was a bit abrupt, and I thought it was going to continue, but it wasn't too off-putting. I recommend checking this book out, and I'll be looking for whatever Candice Iloh does next!

CW - sexual abuse
Profile Image for laure.
230 reviews
February 14, 2021
rating: ✫✫✫⋆ (3.5 stars)
random notes before we get started...
stands in the category of books i picked up for their cover.
i could have given it a higher rating, but i know this story won't stick with me and i'm going to drop this rating at some point, so i think 3.5 is a nice average.
I- the punctuation
i found this book a little hard to navigate through, mainly because of its writing – it's written in verse and without any sort of punctuation, which makes it a little confusing at times...
i did get relatively used to it at some point, but it still made it difficult for me to feel "included" in the story and to enjoy it as much as i would if i could rely on commas and full stops to understand the story...
II- the writing
as a whole, i don't think this book actually benefited from being written in verse... it prompted a certain lack of development which, to me, made it feel like a novella. as a result, the character development and the storyline as a whole felt a little shallow, and i would have liked a little more detailing on the relationships and on the main character's relationship with dance.
III- the characters
a) ada
oh god... the trauma this girl suffered though. literally, every single time there was a flashback to her childhood//come back to college time, i KNEW she was about to go through terrible events that would scar her forever. she had NO healthy relationship with anyone whatsoever (apart from kendra 🥺💖🧸💕💗🐛💞🤧💓) and her life was a complete and utter mess. i didn't really get to feel or to root for her – because of my little issue with the writing style, which i've just mentioned – but i WISHHHH i had had more reasons to love her, because i feel like if she hadn't been a refusing to do anything/lacking personality/a little shallow character, if she had had an additional interest (other than dance) or even if i had seen more of her passion for dance, i would have learned to appreciate her a lot more. i do realise that this was intentional (to show she was lost and did not have any reason to continue to live in this college-life-thing), but still... 😔
b) ada's father
i HATE father figures in contemporary books, why are they always so mean and scary...
anyways, this dad was extremely religiously and intellectually asking of his poor artistic daughter, which made their relationship feel a little abusive. we did not get to see him a lot through the story (and honestly, i'm glad–) but he gave off ✨frightening✨ vibes, so... hate that.
c) ada's mother
i surprisingly liked that there was not that much insight on her addiction, and that it was seen with a child//outsider's perspective. it gave ada's personality a new layer and was an interesting way to pursue the "show-don't-tell" aspect i personally love in books written in verse.
d) kendra
kendra holds the key to my heart. she's SO SWEET and PERFECT and NICE and THE ONLY ACTUAL HUMAN BEING IN THIS NOVEL and i love her.

IV- the ending
the ending was indeed very satisfying... howEVER the novel as a whole felt too long and a little boring but confusing at the same time... i don't know... i wasn't vibing with it all throughout my reading experience, which made it difficult to get through it.
V- a final note...
this book was overall really good. i know i've been ranting and criticising it throughout this whole review, but when i think back, i believe to have enjoyed it, in general. i would therefore recommend it if you're looking for a nice and short read!!
Profile Image for Cathy Wolters.
81 reviews
February 1, 2022
Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh was a Printz Award Nominee in 2021. Written in prose, this novel is about an eighteen year old named Ada who feels out of place in her own skin. She goes to college, because that is what her father expects of her. The story shifts between Ada’s present day, college life and memories from her past. By learning about Ada’s past, the reader gets to know her parents and how they have impacted Ada’s thought patterns and decision-making. While Ada loves to draw and dance, she is stuck working for her school’s basketball team, daydreaming through her accounting class, and spending evenings with a boy unworthy of her time. Things change for Ada once she meets Kendra, a confident dancer who encourages Ada to be herself. Will Ada continue doing what others expect of her? Will she ever be able to stand up to her family? Open this lyrical read and find out for yourself.

There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed. I think both Candice Iloh and Ada have a perspective that is worth reading. I thought the style of the story was both accessible and unique. The friendship between Ada and Kendra was really touching- everyone needs a friend like Kendra to remind us that we are worthy of joy, respect, and passion. My qualm with this book is that I wanted to know more about Ada’s college life, but we kept getting pulled back into her sometimes traumatic and upsetting upbringing. I’m all for character development and growth, but I thought we could stay more in the present to do that. This story left me wanting more- a different (or more nuanced) ending and more plot about college in between. Without giving too much away, I wanted to learn more about Ada’s college roommate and Ada’s time at college. I wish Ada had more adults in her life truly looking out for her and that she wasn’t tasked with having to find her way on her own. This story definitely made me feel things and think back to that time in my life, so I will give it credit for that. I just wanted more.
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