Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Beautiful! It’s unique in today’s world of fancy ball gowns and big faces on novel covers. Best of all, it looks like the book describes! Sunny looks right, she’s wielding her juju knife…there are even some Nsibidi words along the top.
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
Planned, but no dates yet. However, it’s a contained story in itself, so no need to stress over cliffhangers!
West Africa! Not many English-language YA books are set in Africa.
Teamwork! The four members of Sunny’s oha work together–not perfectly, but in a way that means everyone gets to use their own talents.
…and wasp artists! I would like one of each, please.
Masquerades! Not like in Phantom of the Opera, though: Africa-style.
If you liked Harry Potter, you’ll like Akata Witch. Of course, it’s way too simplistic to just call it “Harry Potter in Africa”–but in a lot of ways, that’s not a bad description. Akata Witch is also about a young person who was raised among non-magical people, who then discovers heretofore unknown magical talents and begins to learn about it. In Akata, the magic is of course drawn from a completely different tradition, and it has a completely different setting. Another huge difference is the lack of a school for magical people–there are teachers, but no boarding school where they are surrounded only by other magical people. This changes the general flavor of the novel significantly. Political issues such as oil companies/consumption, gender roles, and African/North American relations make appearances throughout the book as conversational topics and things that are Sunny’s mind, but at no point does this become an “issue book”. Much like with the protagonist trio in Harry Potter, trouble and adventure find Sunny and her three friends. All in all, a great read. I’ll pretty definitely read the sequel.