I thoroughly enjoyed Candice Carty-Williams’ “Queenie“, which I’ve recommended and loaned to lots of people, and was eagerly awaiting what she produced next. I haven’t read her body-swap YA novel “Empress and Aniya” (yet) but this one popped up on NetGalley, her new novel for adults, and I was thrilled to win it and had even more fun reading it. We’re still reading about a Black woman in South London but this is definitely not just more of the same, but a fresh departure for Carty-Williams.

Candice Carty-Williams – “People Person”

(19 March 2022 – NetGalley)

Marley stared as his grandad, blinking his long lashes at him slowly while taking his face in. He reached his arms out to Cyril, who stepped back.

‘I don’t hug and dem tings dere!’ Cyril laughed nervously. ‘You teaching this boy to be soft, Danny?’

That ht Danny harder than any punch he’d ever felt.

‘Come on, Marley, let’s get you something to eat,’ he whispered to Marley, hugging his son tighter than he ever had.

‘Cyril.’ Tracy shook her head at the father of her son, disappointed. Not that she expected any more from him.

Cyril Pennington thinks of himself as a people person – he’s certainly a ladies’ man and he’s spread five (that he knows) children around a fairly small area of South London. Introducing them to each other when he feels they’re old enough to need warning off accidental incest, he then retreats to being very much the hands-off father, as his various exes are left raising the children.

Fast forward until Dimple, 30, the middle one, unable to control her leaking emotions, trying to be an influencer from her mum’s bedroom and taking all her self-worth from the men and audience she tries to attract, has a crisis on her hands in the form of an accident that’s happened to her boyfriend. She calls her oldest sister, Nikisha, the one who can cope with anything, and who is slightly scary with it, and Nikisha calls in (over-)chilled mixed-heritage Danny, uptight medical student Lizzie (almost Dimple’s exact contemporary and twitchy about that, too) and cheeky Prynce, Nikisha’s younger brother. Together they deal with the situation in their own ways, and the on-going chaos it releases.

I love the way all the characters relate to each other and their mums, staying in character and on-brand but revealing different sides of them as they go. Lizzie just wants to protect her girlfriend from getting sucked into it all (and her career), Danny has a murky past down to pure loyalty, Nikisha is a bit of a mystery still and Prynce looks like he might be going to follow in their father’s footsteps but does look up to Danny. I would have liked a bit more of Danny and Nikisha but that’s a small note, as I so enjoyed following the chaotic events in the novel, brought back together by set pieces at parties and funerals, the set of unlikely siblings with their little similarities having each other’s backs all the way through.

We finish with a satisfying epilogue. Characters have learned, points from current events are woven in and reacted to, but lives are messy and not everything is a learning point. Carty-Williams is a strong and very able writer, and I will read everything she writes, even though this veers on being a thriller / caper at points. An excellent novel and well worth the hype!

Thank you to Orion for selecting me to read this novel in return for an honest review. “People Person” was published on 28 April 2022.