- 338 pages
- Debut novel
- LGBTQ+ characters
- Coming of Age
Reviewed by big-time sites like Marie Claire and Kirkus Reviews, Shirlene Obuobi’s debut novel, On Rotation, has quickly gained speed. The novel features our Ghanaian-American protagonist, Angie, who is a doctoral student studying medicine. As the eldest sibling, Angie is under a lot of pressure to be the Perfect Immigrant Daughter, including having a successful boyfriend and attending an elite medical program. Yet, when she bombs the single most important exam in her career and her boyfriend dumps her, she doesn’t know how to fix it.
Determined to get back on track, but at a loss to how, Angie begins to question everything–from her career, to her best friend, to her relationships. Just when things can’t seem to get any worse, she meets Ricky, an attractive, thoughtful man who genuinely seems interested in her. That is, until she realizes that even Ricky is complicated.
On Rotation explores the feeling many young adults have about growing up, the pressure parents put on their children, and the pressure we put on ourselves.
I was SO excited to get my hands on On Rotation. This book has been on my TBR list since before it was released and I just so happened to find it on the shelf of my local library (and I get first dibs since I work there! You can read about that by clicking here.) Initially, I was drawn to this book because the cover really stands out and it seemed like a unique take on a romance. Plus, I’ve made in my mission in 2022 to read books with more diverse authors–and protagonists–and On Rotation seemed to fit that role with the many mentions of Ghanaian culture in the first few chapters.
Yet, once I actually started reading this book–I wasn’t impressed. On Rotation is definitely more of a coming-of-age story than a romance. While I don’t mind books that explore the changes we go through during adulthood, I was definitely expecting more of a love story than what we got here. In fact, I actually didn’t like Ricky at all.
Angie meets Ricky early on in the novel, but the romance between the two of them doesn’t pick up until at least halfway through. I wouldn’t even necessarily call this one a “slow-burn” since Angie spends most of the beginning of their ‘friendship’ (I put that loosely) simultaneously hating Ricky and being attracted to him–and she has every right to.
Ricky’s character is dense, and at times, narcassistic. Angie continually tells the reader that he is SO caring and kind and thoughtful, but she’s biased because of her attraction for him. As someone who knows men and sees through the bullshit, I 100% could not get behind Ricky’s character, ESPECIALLY after the scene around page 270 (though I won’t get into that here for the sake of spoilers).
Beyond the terrible romance, I couldn’t stand the footnotes in this book. I completely understand that some of the Ghanaian-American culture needed to be explained to readers, and I appreciated that Obuobi took the time to do that for us, but I think I would have preferred a reading guide in the back of the book or something. The format with the footnotes kept me looking back and forth to the bottom of the page and it draws the reader out of the story. Plus, many of the footnotes had non-essential thoughts that weren’t necessary.
One other note that I found interesting about this book–as Angie drifts from her family, desperate to put boundaries in place where boundaries haven’t existed before, she seems to lose her culture. The footnotes disappear, she stops focusing on her background, and she instead falls whole-heartedly into the drama of the present. I didn’t love this feature–if the author felt that the footnotes were necessary to immerse the reader in culture, then they should have been consistent throughout the book.
While there were a lot of things that I didn’t love about this book, I do appreciate what Obuobi was trying to create here–there are so many different forms of representation in this book that are needed. We certainly don’t have enough stories with characters like Angie, or her friends. Angie is determined, despite the pressure of her parents, and her motivation is inspiring.
Overall, I rated this book a solid two stars. I do think that the cover is redeeming quality of this book, but I wondered whether the novel should have truly been marketed as a romance. That being said, I do think that it is a cute novel with some difficult themes that readers will relate to, especially readers that have struggled to find their way beyond their parent’s grasp.
If you’re interested in purchasing On Rotation, you can find it on Amazon by clicking here.
Already read this book? Let me know in the comments what you thought! Or, hop over to my book reviews page for a list of all of the other books I’ve read this year to find your next read.