Smash It! by Francina Simone is juicy, messy, and highly entertaining (in a good way!)
In Smash It! by Francina Simone, Olivia is living her life hiding her talents, her interests, and even her curves. She is young, insecure, and after a come-to-Jesus moment with a bartender at a club, she is determined to change her life. To ensure she sticks to her plan, she creates a list of rules that, she is sure, will help her keep her on track—be bold, learn to take compliments, stand out.
Soon after, Olivia finds herself saying yes to a variety of unexpected and scary opportunities life presents her, including joining her school’s production of Othello (which central to the development of the story). On her journey, she meets new friends, figures out how she feels about the old ones, explores her teenage carnal desires, and learns to embrace herself.
I enjoyed this book because Olivia is not perfect, but she learns from her mistakes. The story is an authentic and beautiful coming of age story. The main characters, Olivia and her two best friends struggle with being different, stereotypes, popularity, insecurities, sexual awareness, and first loves as well as with their cultural and ethnic heritages. But in the short time we spend with them, they grow. No, they blossom!
Unfortunately, I didn’t love the breaks in the narrative to add excerpts from Shakespeare’s Othello. I’m not even sure if they were actual excerpts or Olivia’s thoughts in Shakespearean-style monologues. Truthfully, I skipped through some parts of them. I’m not a Shakespeare fan (go ahead and judge, idc), but I understand why Othello served as inspiration. The parallel between Olivia’s progress and Othello’s storyline as she prepares to be part of the play was pretty creative and well explained for those of us who last gave Othello a thought in 2001 when “O” came out.
I loved the sass, the banter, and the boldness of all the characters. There were really cringy moments, but overall I had a lot of fun with Olivia and her friends. I consistently chuckled while reading this book. Simone did a great job making sure each character’s personality had time shinning in the spotlight. In the end, I felt that usual emptiness that only comes when I’m left wanting more time with the beautiful characters.