Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola follows the story of Kiki Banjo, a college student at Whitewell University in England. She is the host of the campus radio show “Brown Sugar” where she tends to give out relationship advice in between tracks. The story reminds me a lot of Netflix’s show “Dear White People” as there’s a similar premise. Like Sam on “Dear White People,” she’s headstrong and intelligent, and is an integral part of the Black community at Whitewell. They both have the similar trait of appearing to be somewhat rigid about their values and morals, and aren’t afraid to remind people; she’s not one to take shit from anyone at any time. So it’s surprising that after giving her sermon on the “Wasteman of Whitehall,” which is the current guy who has all the girls on campus in a tizzy, she ends up kissing him at a party. Granted, there was a reason behind the kiss but it seemed choice that she’d go that route given what her peers know her to be.
After the kiss and a little bit of a disagreement which ends with a drink being poured on someone’s lap, Kiki decides Malakai, the “Wasteman of Whitehall” is the worst and wants nothing to do with him despite feeling attracted to him. Malakai Korede becomes Kiki’s number one enemy; the prime “fuckboi” of Blackwell (aka the Black community at Whitewell) who’s causing all the women to act out of character for his affection. A transfer student with dashing good looks, a great personality, and intelligence to match, Malakai quickly becomes the object of the women of Blackwell’s attention – and he gives it to them.
Except Kiki’s plans were quickly foiled when she finds out that Malakai is the student her mentor suggests she works with to try to earn her an internship at NYU. The goal? Increase her following for Brown Sugar to put together her application for the internship. As Kiki unfortunately needs to figure out how to work with Malakai, she comes up with the idea to create a fake relationship with Malakai for a new segment on her show. In exchange for this, Malakai asked for her help on his student film. Both their projects center about people in relationships though for Malakai, it carries more weight. It seemingly makes zero sense that Kiki would devise this plan, especially since she’s trying to swear off of Malakai due to her attraction but it somehow works.
Common Themes + Opinions:
The underlying themes in this story for both Kiki and Malakai has to do with their separate bouts of depression, the actions it caused and its effect on their present and futures. For Kiki, after some stupid high school drama, she purposely withdraws from her friends and is isolated as she dealt with her mother’s health issues. All of this causes her to shut down and shut out everyone to not risk hurting someone close to her again. At Whitewell, she keeps her distance from everyone except Aminah; she doesn’t date, she doesn’t have other friends, and tends to stay away from all social events except for the weekly Friday party for Whitewell’s Black students. What she didn’t realize was that her self imposed isolation plus the relationship advice she gives on her show made her appear like she could have felt superior to her peers. That was definitely the vibe I picked up early on, hence the comparison to Sam from “Dear White People” who I felt had a similar vibe. Her advice and position made her feel inauthentic as she was shelling out relationship advice without ever really being in one. That, and the women of Blackwell did not feel that sense of community with Kiki, making it challenging to sometimes take her show advice seriously.
For Malakai, he became depressed when his family essentially fell apart. He finds out his father was cheating on his mother when the mistress sent him pictures of her with his dad at their family house in Lagos. This causes a rift between his parents, obviously, where his father continues to be an absentee dad to Malakai and his brother. Malakai starts to think that he could be a cheater like his dad, and after realizing that the future that was in front of him; an economics degree, a girlfriend he didn’t even like and was the daughter of one of his dad’s friends was what his father wanted for him. He takes the opportunity to pursue a career he actually wants, in film, in a new setting and newly single. Afraid that he could be like his dad, he keeps everything casual with the women he dates to prevent hurting anyone before it even happens. While he finally chose to do something for himself, his choice makes the rift between him and his father even bigger as he disapproves of his career choice. However, given Malakai’s feelings for his father for lack of being an actual parent to him, he realizes that he may not even need his father’s approval to pursue his dreams.
Final Thoughts + Ratings:
Overall, I loved Honey and Spice. The story felt current, with many pop culture references, and felt fresh despite me being nowhere near college aged. Both Kiki and Malakai grew throughout the story, which made their coming together all the more satisfying. I will say, this is kind of a slow burn and I grew impatient with waiting for their “fake” relationship to become real, but it was swoon worthy when they finally did. This isn’t a very spicy book, though there’s one sexy scene. I give Honey and Spice five stars for the romance, and the side plot that becomes bigger and surprising by the end of the book.
Have you read Honey and Spice? Let me know in the comments!