After a rather long hiatus I’ve returned after hitting up my local library for some reads!
All too often, I find that books found in the Children and Young Adult sections are ignored and overlooked by adults. While certainly not marketed towards adults there are many wonderful and unique experiences to be found within their pages. They’re immensely readable, and not too juvenile or simple as some would fear.
The mark of a good Children’s or Young Adult novel is this: the writer knows that kids are people. They’re smart, versatile, and unique individuals, and a story doesn’t have to be dumbed down to appeal to them.
This is where Akata Witch comes in.
I found this book in the YA section of my library. As I’m always down for stories about witches, I thought I would give it a try. I certainly didn’t regret it.
At this point in my reading career magic seems at times to have become commonplace and predictable. I realized that in part that’s probably because I was only getting my hands on books from people of the same backgrounds – white Americans. In most cases men.
Akata Witch is written by Nnedi Okorafor, a Black American woman whose parents are Nigerian. The culture and perspective that comes with people of diverse backgrounds brings diverse writing. This is a very important thing to remember when choosing a new book or author to read! Narrowing your perspective by choosing a very small subset of authors limits your imagination, your creativity, and your view of the world.
As soon as I started reading Akata Witch, I couldn’t put it down. Sunny is a very likeable and understandable protagonist. I cheered for her every step of her journey. I was upset when she was, and confused when she was, and was triumphant as she learned more of juju and of her past. The magic system in this book was steeped in ritual and tradition, and I was as eager as Sunny to learn more of it.
The supporting cast of characters, Chichi, Orlu, and Sasha, brought interesting friendships to the mix. They illustrated both how infuriating and how rewarding a new friend can be, and the struggle you face when you know your friends are doing something wrong. They’re three dimensional characters with their own goals and they really brought life to the story.
Sunny (and sometimes her friends’) struggle with adults seemed all too real. Sunny’s inability to share her life with her parents, and the close-lipped silence of other adults was spot on. As she and her friends struggled with the reality of the Black Hat, nobody would tell them anything until the very end.
The serious subjects of the book might seem odd to adults who don’t read YA or children’s books often. To you, let me say this: kids are tough. We live in a scary world, and in most cases kids are aware of far more than we give them credit for.
The author is a gifted storyteller, bringing people and locations to life in vivid detail. Leopard Knocks was an incredible place to read about, as were the cast of characters that resided there. The inset of ‘Fast Facts for Free Agents’ at the beginning of every chapter was a nice touch as well.
Akata Witch brings with it a ritual serial killer, a secret family legacy, valuable friendships, magic, and of course an interesting heroine who begins to learn her place in everything.
I certainly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading the next in the series!