Saturday, February 4, 2023

On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi


For Black History Month, I'm trying to read all of the books on my Kindle that were written by Black authors that I haven't been able to get to during the rest of the year. ON ROTATION was a read I was really looking forward to because it has a STEM heroine, and it's a romance that focuses as much (if not more) on the development of the heroine's career and her friendships as it does on her romantic relationships, which was more typical of '90s and aughts chick-lit than it is in a lot of contemporary ones, which I realize I sorely miss.

Angie is training to be a doctor. But her scores aren't great, she has to find a project to woo over potential employers, and her overbearing Ghanaian parents are kind of being a pain. Her younger sister just got engaged, her own boyfriend just quietly quit her, and the dynamic in her friend group has been weird ever since her bestie got a new S/O. So when she breaks down in a park and has a meet-cute with a cute guy, it seems like fate. But then she finds out he has a girlfriend.

Ricky, the love interest, was not like a lot of other love interests I've read about in romances. Which made the relationship between them both more realistic and more frustrating. I actually hated him for a lot of the book and when he and Angie become friends, I broke out the side-eye. But as we learn more about him and what's really going on in his life, the way he sort of accidentally-but-not-really led Angie on starts to make more sense. And Angie has some relationship hang-ups, too, both because of her intelligence, her fear of being let down, and also because of her skin color, that has created some serious intimacy hang-ups in her own approach to relationships. So rather than being the light and fluffy feel-good romance I expected, this ended up feeling like a really intense character study of two wounded people who have to heal before they can let each other in.

I really liked this book. In some ways, it was like a heavier version of Abby Jimenez's PART OF YOUR WORLD (artsy hero, doctor heroine, overbearing parents, etc.), and I would say that people who liked POY should definitely check out ON ROTATION because of the shared themes. But it also offered a lot more: incredibly strong and intimate female friendships, nonbinary rep, a very detailed look at what it is like being involved in the medical field, the pressure of being the child of immigrant parents with high expectations, and some incredibly interesting comments on the hyper-sexualization of Black women, and the lack of representation of Black doctors in a field where Black patients still regard the medical industry (quite rightly) with suspicion, due to historical patterns of medical maltreatment and involuntary experimentation (which the heroine really wants to report on/study).

I hope Shirlene Obuobi has another book under her belt because I would read it in a heartbeat.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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