Mar 29, 2012

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor – A Review

April 2011, Young Adult Fiction
Viking Juvenile, 349 pages, ISBN 978-0670011964
Available on Amazon (paperback & e-book)

I first stumbled across Akata Witch last year when I was perusing the young adults “new books” section at my local library, and was immediately captivated by the cover. I placed it on my TBR and finally got to read it as the first book of 2012 in my continuing African Reading Endeavour.

The story is told from the point of view of Sunny, a young girl living near the town of Aba, Nigeria. As we are introduced to Sunny, she opens a window into her life and how the world sees her:

“I am Nigerian by blood, American by birth, and Nigerian again because I live here. I have West African features, like my mother, but while the rest of my family is dark brown, I’ve got light yellow hair, skin the color of “sour milk” (or so stupid people like to tell me), and hazel eyes that look like God ran out of the right color. I’m albino.”

She doesn’t quite fit in, and is a loner is most ways. She’s picked on and called “akata,” a derogatory term for an American-born person of African descent. However, things start to look up for Sunny when she finds herself in a new circle of friends, and is introduced to a community known as the Leopard People.

Her new friends have magical powers, and show her that she’s special too. She is what is known as a “free agent,” a person born with magical powers despite no magical parents. She is soon reading literature and taking classes to harness her skills and learn more about her abilities.

In the backdrop, there is a serial killer preying on children. The manner in which the children are taken and killed is indicative of the perpetrator being someone from the Leopard community. Soon, Sunny and her friends are called into action to stop the Black Hat killer, as he’s known.

It’s hard not to go on but I need to avoid giving away spoilers…

This book was very engaging, and for someone who doesn’t typically read fantasy this is a testament to Nnedi Okorafor’s skill as a writer to keep me hooked! I loved reading the encounters between Sunny and her new friends in the Leopard community, and seeing the growth of their friendship and trust in one another. Pardon me for the cliché but this is a great story about growing up and finding your place in your community.

I would have liked to see the character of Black Hat more fleshed out because as it is the climax was little too neat and clinical. Learning more about him and motivations wouldn’t necessarily have made him a sympathetic character but rather someone a little less mystical and ominous. With that said there was still a lot going on in other parts of book that I didn’t feel cheated.

This is a must read for everyone who enjoys good literature. I’m so happy Okorafor has introduced young (and old) readers to a different world of fantasy that goes beyond the standard to which we’ve all grown accustomed.


when I read about acceptance in community by albino's, i always go to what Salif keitha wrote(sang) in the song La difference

I am black, my skin is white
I am what I am, in the difference that is in me
I am white, my blood if black
I am what I am; in my deference I am free
I wish the world would live together as one
Live in harmony, live in Peace and in one love

we nee a world where in your difference you are free to be who you are allowed to realise you God given potential..

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