Updated: Mar 8, 2021
*This review contains spoilers. If you don't like spoilers you should not read this review.*
22 years ago, Sister Souljah blessed the urban literary world with The Coldest Winter Ever. A book that inspired some, if not all, of our favorite authors. Young adults loved Winter for her street smarts and hood celebrity status. Now, Winter, and all her fans are grown. After doing a 15-year bid, Winter Santiaga is back and ready to claim everything that she felt she has lost, and ready to claim everything she feels she deserves. Like any hood celebrity, Winter feels her release should be celebrated. After some convincing from her brother-in-law, Elisha, Porsche's husband, Winter decides to take her release to television, on a reality tv show. But like any other plan that Winter has ever conceived, it's thwarted, changing the game indefinitely. "Everybody know Winter Santiaga is all about action and hustle, plotting and planning, making it and taking it, and a dead bitch can't do that shit."
From the moment this read starts, you can see that Winter has little to no growth from her time in prison. Instead of using her time wisely to grow and learn, she's spent it trying to figure out how to exact revenge on her enemies and on how to be "the top bitch". "That's when I promised myself, I'm moving whoever murdered me to the top of my 'payback's a bitch' list. It had taken me fifteen minutes after my arrest to put together my payback list. But it took me fifteen years to put together each scheme on exactly how I was gonna do it." She befriended people that should have been her enemies, only to later regret it. "'The show must go on,' Simone said in her low, manly voice. 'Life After Death' like B.I.G. said. and dead entertainers sell more merchandise than living entertainers ever did, like B.I.G. did. Bet y'all didn't know that! Winter wanted to be the star, so she got murdered on camera, a dramatic debut.' Simone waved her arms in the air, still holding the Ciroc."
Before Winter starts her after life journey, she's allowed to visit the two people that she loves the most, Midnight and her father, the infamous Ricky Santiaga. "Somebody got me! But don't you worry about who did it. Stay still for me. Don't kill whoever did it. I'm gonna get you the fuck out of here. I'm gonna put you where you belong. Trust me, your Baby Girl. Poppa, you did everything in life for me. Now I'm gonna be the one to king you!" Winter's unable to see her reflection or even have any interactions with her loved ones. She's even unable to comprehend what's going on, but when she comes to her own conclusion about what's going on, she does what only Winter Santiaga can do, run game in the afterlife. "Someone was trying to break me, I know. But Winter Santiaga is not easily broken."
The next 80% of this book gets really weird, even tricky. Winter Santiaga takes the afterlife on the best way she knows how. The afterlife, which is known as The Last Stop Before the Drop, has all the worldly things Winter can want and more. Her designer labels, expensive cars and even men that can fuck her into oblivion. Old habits die hard and they definitely cost Winter, ultimately teaching her a lesson that is learned almost too late. She's turned in to several different animals, killed in the afterlife twice and even meets the souls of her aborted kids. If any of this sounds weird to you, then you are correct in your assessment. Those aspects of the book were almost hard to digest, but not hard to read. It was like reading a paranormal book. "Unexpectedly, because it was not something anyone would ever imagine is desirable or even possible, I fully awake and with my same Winter Santiaga mind and thoughts, had turned into a red python."
This book was deep. This book was religious. This book made me think. This wasn't your typical junk food book that you love to read. This book was one of the required reading books they assigned you in grade school. I found myself with 4 pages of notes and over a hundred highlights when I finished this book. It was enlightening. It didn't feel good reading, but it was definitely necessary. Winter's way of thinking and her mentality irritated me throughout this read. She knew what needed to be done and refused to do it. Winter reminded me of plenty close-minded people, myself included, so her story wasn't far-fetched. Winter's time in the afterlife broke her down, gave her life meaning and taught her multiple lessons. "Don't know if I will ever be able to let pride go even though I know it's wrong. I don't know if I even want to. I don't cover my hair or wear religious-type clothing. For me that ain't it. But I do worship One God and make my prayers in the early morning and late night, when no one can see me. Once I find and marry a real man who makes my heart and my pussy thump, who loves me right up to the line of worship, I'll let him be the only one that sees me bow down before him, bowing down beside me, to the One who created us both and us all."
My overall assessment is: I enjoyed this book. It held my attention from the beginning until the end. Even with Winter constantly working on my nerves, I was still able to enjoy. Even with all of its weirdness, I was never confused on what was happening in the book. I don't think this book should have been categorized as a sequel. This book had the same characters from The Coldest Winter Ever but was an entirely different vibe from the original book, it only held the tiniest bit of nostalgia. Now we wait, for the next book.