Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?
Remember when Harry Potter came out, and we all were trying to imagine what it would be like to have wizarding worlds in other countries?
Thanks to Nnedi Okorafor, we no longer have to imagine how it would look in Nigeria. She created the most perfect magical world any of us could ever hope to dream of in her home country, and it is BEAUTIFUL. How wonderful a way to give representation to Nigerian and Nigerian American kids in fiction! (And give a positively fantastic view for us outsiders too, by the way!) The main character is even an albino POC, and that presents a completely unique set of challenges (and a few certain advantages) that we aren’t used to seeing in perspective.
Not only is the book rocking on diversity, but the world building knocked my socks off. I fell in love with this book from Chapter One, and kept coming back to it all weekend. I read it on my phone–which I don’t normally do–and my husband couldn’t figure out why I went to bed early to stare at my screen. It was very out of character, but I just had to know what was going to happen next! The magic, or juju, in Akata Witch is based in Nigerian tradition–there are Leopards and Lambs, instead of Wizards and Muggles–but the world is very similar to that in Harry Potter. There’s definitely a reason people are comparing it. It is its own thing though, and Okorafor put a ton of work into building a society structure, dark vs light, and all the legends and lore that go into the juju. This is not flat fanfiction you are getting here.
Speaking of the society structure–can we please make her society a real thing? You only get money when you learn something. Coins literally FALL FROM THE SKY when you learn something knew, and it could be anything from a new skill to a eureka moment. The world would be such a better place if people could only get rich by actually putting their brains to use. Of course, there is corruption, and ways to take advantage of the system–it wouldn’t be a good book without conflict. But, I’ll let you read it to find out the rest.