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Stuff for the Teen Age
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Sunny is accustomed to being different. She was born in New York City but lives in Nigeria. She has the same features as her West African family, but she is an albino. The people in her community don’t know what to make of her, so they stay away or call her names.
In school, Sunny makes new friends in Orlu and Chichi, who reveal that they have magical powers and suspect that she does too. It turns out that Sunny is a “free agent,” someone who’s powers are not hereditary. Usually, people with these powers are from a magical family and learn about their powers while growing up. Sunny has a lot of catching up to do and at the same time, must keep her new abilities a secret from her strict family.
Just as Sunny is starting to get the hang of things, she is asked to help the magical authorities stop a dangerous serial killer who targets young children in her community. Sunny must believe in herself and her new powers to be able to stop a killer with powers that are much stronger than hers.
Nnedi Okorafor’s novel Akata Witch is a great read for fantasy fans and has been praise by famed fantasy writers such as Jonathan Stroud, Diana Wynne Jones, and Ursula K. Le Guin. I like the fact that the story takes place in Nigeria — it is a different perspective on the traditional magical coming of age story. I was also struck by the fact that Sunny is an albino. I remember reading some articles about how albinos in West Africa were often times discriminated against and even believed to have magical powers, a subject matter that is mentioned in the book.
Okorafor’s characters are funny and fresh, and you will be drawn to the back alleys and secret meetings where her magic takes place.