This is my review of Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. It was wonderful and
Akata Witch is about a young girl named Sunny who has grown up in New
York, but her family has recently moved to Nigeria, which is where her parents
are from. So Sunny is Nigerian, and an albino, and when she returns to Nigeria
she discovers she is one of the Leopard People. They have juju (magic) and they
live among the Lambs (non-magical people), but they go to Leopard Knocks (the
magical world) to learn. So Sunny learns she’s one of the Leopard people by her
classmate Orlu, who lives down the street, and a girl in the neighbourhood. And
they take her to their teacher, Anatov, so she can learn. In the meantime
there’s this psychotic killer called Black Hat kidnapping, maiming and killing
children, in the area.
It felt like it owed a lot to Harry Potter, which is nothing bad at all.
I think a lot of young adult books about magical children written after 2000
will owe a lot to Harry Potter. It’s still very different from Harry Potter. I
will admit that I don’t know very much about Nigeria, I have a sort of base
knowledge, and now I want to know more, but it felt very grounded in its own
reality. Okorafor is American, but born of Igbo Nigerian parents, and has spent
a lot of her time in Nigeria, so she knows the country, and I felt like she was
very good at capturing the country and mood. Which sounds really weird, since I
have only the basest knowledge, but it didn’t feel fake, it didn’t feel like a
caricature, it felt like a real place. And the magic, or juju, felt like it was
naturally woven into the world. Since Okorafor and Sunny are both
Nigerian-American it’s probably easier to make her feel real.
I really liked Sunny. She was very secure, which I found interesting,
but like Harry she has grown up with a family that wasn’t great. Sunny’s family
is a lot better, but her father seems to resent her, and her mother is very
overbearing. They have both gotten through that, and not let it get them down,
they’re strong and tough and assured. And even though she’s quite secure she
grows throughout the book and becomes stronger and tougher. She is bullied in
school for being albino, and she learns to deal with that, which is cool.
It was very grounded in female power as well. Sunny and Orlu are joined
in their studies by Sunny’s neighbour Chichi, and a young American boy staying
with Orlu, Sasha. And Chichi lives with her mother, and gets her magical power
from her and it seems very much like it connects them. Sunny and Chichi bond
quite a bit and have a strong friendship, and Chichi helps Sunny really embrace
her juju. Sunny grows up in a family where no one else is magical, but her
grandmother is also a Leopard people, and she got her power from her
grandmother, through her mother, and they seem to have the same power, which I
I really enjoyed how it was written. It was very conversational and
cool. And I liked Sunny. She’s not afraid to stand up for herself. She loves
playing soccer and when boys tell her she can’t she will not step down, she
will prove herself. To his credit, Sasha is a complete pal, and he stands up
for her, and tells the other boys to stuff it and give her a shot. And it is
not done out of pity, Sasha knows she’s good and he wants her to have her
chance. He’s a fairly badass young man in that sense.
I gave it three stars, because I feel like it… I feel like I was too old
to read it. Some middle grade books appeal completely to both adults and
children, but I feel like this probably appeals to children, but it wasn’t mind
blowing to me.
It was funny, it was clever. It was also original, and it was really cool.
And I loved Sunny so much.