Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Review: Akata Witch

Title: Akata Witch (Akata Witch #1)
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Genre: Middle Grade | Magic

Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Source: Publisher
Format: eARC


Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West 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 in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a "free agent" with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do.
Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But just as she's finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them against a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs (goodreads)?

Akata Witch feels like Harry Potter but misses the interesting plot and engaging characters. 
Plot: Akata Witch interested me with its first lines. A young albino girl that identified as American and African. A group of magical people, and a new setting. Sadly after that, my excitement fizzled into nothing. There was something about the writing that just didn't mesh with me. The dialogue served more to explain things than to make the characters feel real. In fact, I would say that most of the dialogue felt wooden and awkward. It felt like Harry Potter because immediately Okorafor divided the world into two categories: the Leopards and the Lambs. The Leopards were basically your wizards while the Lambs were muggles. Unlike Harry Potter, I never found my groove in this book and unfortunately ended up skimming about two-thirds of it. For all of my complaining, I did like the question of identity that this book addressed. It was also interesting to see Okorafor describe the relationship between black Americans and Africans. 

Also, I was under the impression that this novel was Young Adult, but the oldest character was 13. I'm still hesitant to categorize this as Middle Grade because some of the topics and conversations were very mature. 

Characters: Sunny was 12 years old throughout this book and I felt that her mental age ranged from 12 to about 17. For middle schoolers, they had some intense conversations about economic disparity and race. None of the characters really stood out to me. I wanted to root for Sunny, but she just faded into the background despite being the star of this show. This, again, was probably because I didn't like the writing style. It was a lot of "telling instead of showing" and it didn't help me understand anyone. 

Worldbuilding: The most interesting aspect of this book was undoubtedly the setting. I loved the Nigerian location and how the author wove in how systematic oppression had affected the people and continued to overshadow various cultures in the region.

Short N Sweet: I wanted to love this magical Nigeria but couldn't connect with the writing style. 

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