“Greater Life” is the second novel and the sequel to Howard alumni and author Devyn Bakewell’s debut novel, “Greater Love.” The sequel continues the life and love story between Ryan McKnight and Devyn Baker, two college students who attend Truth University, an HBCU in New York.
In “Greater Love,” we are introduced to Ryan, a recent high school graduate from Los Angeles who leaves her hometown, friends, and family behind to achieve her dreams in New York. She left home on a bad note and wanted to leave everything behind her – that is – until she meets Devyn.
Both Ryan and Devyn are from a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles and attended the same high school, though they never crossed paths. Ryan is smart, quiet, and shy and kept mainly to herself throughout high school, while Devyn played football and was very popular. Coincidentally or through fate, the two ended up attending the same HBCU.
Ryan becomes Devyn’s tutor, because he did not have good grades. Devyn represents an imagery from her past – a past she tried to leave behind her. Ryan was going through a lot and needed to heal, but she also wanted to dive into the college experience and Devyn knew that. He was able to assist in her healing and become that person Ryan was able to lean on while bringing the softness to Ryan’s life.
Though he had his own burdens of the past with a mother who spent years away due to a drug addiction, he was able to be that crutch Ryan needed to heal. Their hometown was a bad place for Ryan, but he also helped her realize that there are good parts to where she came from.
He is a reminder that we can’t run from our past. The things we try to run from, are the exact things we need to heal from.
“Greater Life” continues Ryan and Devyn’s love story as they end their freshman year of college. Ryan is offered an internship in New York, while Devyn goes back home to his mother, after returning from not being in his life for years.
Bakewell wanted to write the second story because she felt that while the two characters had a great love story they were both really young and didn’t have a lot of self-growth. Bakewell explained how the two characters have a great relationship, and the story is about a girl who was “lost in the shadows” and “lost in her own life.” She felt like Ryan and Devyn needed to grow individually and didn’t want to leave her book with someone who is lost.
“I felt like she had too many goals that weren’t put into action because of the things that were happening in the first book, so I wanted to make that happen and end their story on a better note,” Bakewell said.
Bakewell realized she wanted to be a writer in the first or second grade. She explained how she really didn’t like to read or write, but was trying to get into books and wasn’t finding books that identified with her, being an African American child. She would always wonder why she couldn’t find any books about little Black girls on the beach or falling in love.
“I really would always think about how to make other people’s books better, and then I just kind of started doing it,” she emphasized. “It was the first thing I really liked to do – like my first hobby.”
“Greater Love” was written during Bakewell’s free time in her freshman year of college at Howard University. She calls it “her therapy” and explained how she was going through things in school.
She had the plot stuck in her head, and began writing. While the book is not based off any personal love experiences, it is definitely an ode to Bakewell’s college experience and moving to a new state.
“I just kind of started writing like my story, about a girl from Los Angeles who moves to the East Coast and I was going through my first year at Howard, so it was kind of that, and turned into a story of its own,” she detailed.
Though one of the main characters, Devyn, share the same first name as Bakewell, she explained how the novels are not based on a love relationship she had in college, but the growth she went through and lessons she learned.
Like the characters in her books, Bakewell also went to Howard University, an HBCU. She said that reflecting on her characters is like reflecting on herself. She graduated from Howard in 2021 where she majored in English and creative writing, minored in African American studies.
Bakewell told the Sentinel that “Greater Life” is the final installment to Ryan and Devyn’s story, but not the end of her journey as an author.
“Greater Life” and “Greater Love” are both available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Greater-Life-Because-Love-Leads/dp/B0B3FFDG4G , https://www.amazon.com/Greater-Love-Let-Watch-Changes/dp/1636765408
Both books are also available on iTunes and at Barnes and Noble.