Right now is the perfect time to read You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi—-the newly released romance novel opens on Memorial Day weekend, features queer main characters, and embodies the essence of what they call “hot girl summer.”
With a title that draws from the song “Hunger” by Florence + the Machine, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty begins with the line, “Milan was the first person Feyi had fucked since the accident.” Having lost her husband five years ago, Feyi has spent half of her twenties in mourning. Haunted by her grief, it is only now, at age twenty-nine, that she is finally beginning to open herself back up to life, with the fierce encouragement of her best friend and roommate Joy. Though Feyi will always be in love with her late husband, she fights to shed her guilt over the unfairness of her survival and actually show up in her own life.
After physically and emotionally beginning to connect with others, a series of opportunities leads Feyi to an island paradise. But the vacation does not pan out as she expects it to when she feels a spark of attraction towards someone she very much shouldn’t pursue…
A binge-worthy romance, this novel offers both immediate steam and a creeping slow burn relationship. The setting is idyllic for escapism, especially during summer. Moreover, during the typical third act dilemma point, while one could say it technically has a miscommunication situation, the conflict does not feel forced or unnatural in any way; it is the necessary flow of the story. Although on a conscious level I knew I was reading “a romance,” my reading experience did not feel like other romance novels I’ve read before.
Gritty, messy, luxurious, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty was the perfect way to kick off my summer reading. After finishing it in one day, I almost flipped right back to the beginning to read it a second time through, and to be certain, there were a couple scenes I did read through again.
Though we’ve read Akwaeke Emezi’s other works, we’ve never read them like this; Akwaeke has published literary fiction with Freshwater (2018) and The Death of Vivek Oji (2020), young adult with Pet (2019) and Bitter (2022), memoir with Dear Senthuran (2021), and poetry with Content Warning: Everything (2022). In an interview with Book Page, Akwaeke Emezi discusses their intentionality in publishing literary fiction first before moving into various genre fiction, commenting that it “seemed easier” to do than the reverse. To be true, literary fiction often has its gatekeepers, and genre fiction—-specifically, romance—-is not often taken seriously in the literary sphere.
Akwaeke has always loved romance novels, though. In a recent interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Akwaeke speaks about how, as a youngling, they used to coyly indulge in the stereotypical “trashy” romance novels, such a material forbidden at school. Similarly, in an interview with Vogue, Akwaeke remarks on the arbitrary hierarchy of the genres, saying, “People think that, oh, if it’s a romance, then it’s, you know, fluff or it’s not good writing or it’s not real literature, which I think is a very elitist way to look at the genre.”
With You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, the author was very much looking to write something fun and messy, yet in Akwaeke’s inherent writerly way, they created something even more palpable than that, allowing the characters’ trauma to live with them as they live in their new best way, fleshing out real pain on a page while also delivering the perfect sunset—-or should I say, sunrise—-ending.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty has been purchased by Amazon Studios’ Outlier Society Land to be adapted into film by Michael B. Jordan and Elizabeth Raposo with Akwaeke Emezi as executive producer.
Thanks for reading!
To read my book review of Dear Senthuran, click here.
To read my book review of The Death of Vivek Oji, click here.
To browse more fiction book reviews by Slanted Spines, click here.