Speak No Evil

Uzodinma Iweala, author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation (made into a Netflix film), has written another brief but powerful novel, Speak No Evil. It focuses on two wealthy teen friends from different backgrounds in Washington, D.C.

Niru and Meredith are best friends who are both on the track team at an exclusive private school. Niru is the school's track star, and has already been accepted to Harvard to pursue a medical degree. Meredith is also an excellent runner and a good student, but she is worried that she hasn't yet heard back from Harvard. Both teens struggle with expectations set by their high-achieving parents to be the best, to follow the paths set for them and to fit within the cultural norms of their class.

Niru is hiding a secret, though: he has begun to realize that he's gay. His Nigerian immigrant parents are deeply religious and traditional, and being gay definitely does not fit into their aspirations for him. He finally confesses his secret to Meredith, and she encourages him to follow and not deny his true nature. Afterward, a series of incidents eventually leads to tragedy, amid Niru's immense struggle between his nature and his parents' beliefs.

The story is told from both friends' perspectives and touches on issues of tolerance, immigration, religion and violence. This succinct and potent novel explores the gut-wrenching struggle of defining yourself against the expectations of family and society. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog

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