Review: Being Amani by Annabelle Steele

Amani Brown is trying to get her life back together. It’s been a year since she and her mum left London and her abusive dad to live with her grandfather in Manchester. Now she has two best friends, Sanaa the Instagram loving social butterfly and Leo, Sanaa’s hot cousin, who Amani has a crush on but won’t act on it because Sanaa has warned her away from him. But there’s alway Ryan Bailey, who’s just as hot and appears to like her too. Slowly life is returning to normal except Amani’s mum’s depression is getting worse, her dad want to reconnect with her apparently having turned over a new leaf. And Amani, well she keeps having these panic attacks which she tries to hide from everyone. Can she move on and heal from the ghosts of the past to find happiness and be the girl she’s always wanted to be?

Being Amani was very engaging and enjoyable, and though the subject matters (domestic abuse and sexual assault) were quite tough, it was written and handled very sensitively. Amani is the heroine what we all love to root for especially when things get really difficult. One the main things that struck me was how the novel dealt with trauma. Amani still suffers from panic attacks, usually triggered by unwitting reminders of her dad’s abuse. But even her closest friends don’t know the full extent of the abuse she and her mother suffered and it’s only later that she’s able to open up to Leo, reminding her that there are people on her side, and who love and accept her for who she is – scars and all.

A highlight was the love triangle between Amani, Leo and Ryan. Naturally I was Team Leo all the way as Ryan was a little too sketchy for my liking, and when he made comments about Amani’s braids (microagressions hello!) – all bets were off! Also the triangle such as it was depicted a really important factor of relationships of being free to be fully yourself and not allowing someone else to control the person you are. Which leads neatly to Amani’s relationship with her father. When he reappears in her life it’s clear that he wants to make amends but given that all that has happened it’s difficult to believe him. I have to admit I was not ready for the redemption arc of Amani’s dad – I mean I really wasn’t here for it. But after I finished the book, I reflected that it was rare that such characters receive redemption in that the person fully recognises their problems and actively seeks help, especially within Black families. Mental health is rarely discussed in any kind of constructive and meanfully – though thankfully that is changing and Being Amani shows what is possible when people start to talk about and actually confront their problems head on.

With a loveable heroine and supporting characters – shout out to Granddad (!), Being Amani should definitely be added to your TBR list.

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