“Adulting” is hard, and no one knows this better than Angela Appiah, the feisty 20-something protagonist of Shirlene Obuobi’s bighearted debut novel, On Rotation. As the dutiful eldest daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, Angie has spent most of her life striving to meet her parents’ sky-high expectations that she become a well-paid, respected doctor and secure an acceptable husband (meaning: a lawyer, engineer or doctor, preferably of Ghanaian descent).
At the start of her third year of medical school, Angie thinks she’s finally got all her ducks lined up, only for everything to spectacularly fall apart. Her lawyer boyfriend dumps her hours before a family event, and rather than rocking the most important test of her med school career, she receives an embarrassingly low score. Now her entire future as a doctor hangs in the balance.
Right when she’s at her lowest, Angie meets Ricky, a smooth-talking, disconcertingly sincere artist who gives her atrial fibrillations in the best possible way. The chemistry between them is off the charts, but Ricky is off the market, so Angie decides to refocus on grinding her way to the top. But fate, it would seem, has other plans, and she and Ricky keep crossing paths. Angie soon discovers that in love—and in life—the best decisions come not from listening to your head but by letting your heart take the lead.
Like its multihyphenate creator (Obuobi is a Black physician and cartoonist who now adds author to her impressive list of accomplishments), On Rotation goes above and beyond, blending rom-com, medical drama, women’s fiction, coming-of-age tale and immigrant story. Even more incredibly, it balances all these elements well, tackling them in interesting and satisfying ways.
Obuobi’s choice to explore various types of love—platonic, familial and self—rather than focus exclusively on romantic love, is particularly gratifying and refreshing. It’s clear that Obuobi appreciates and respects her characters, all of whom are quirky and dynamic but—critically—never caricatures. Buoyed by Obuobi’s vibrant and strong authorial voice, Angie, Ricky and their friends leap off the page, their dreams and aspirations made palpable alongside their fears, flaws and hangups.
A genuine delight from start to finish, On Rotation will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Talia Hibbert and Ali Hazelwood, and resonate with any reader who enjoys multicultural, multifaceted, inclusive love stories starring unapologetically strong and complex women.