Review: Akata Witch (Akata Witch #1) by Nnedi Okorafor


Hardcover, 349 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Viking Children’s
Source: Library

Any title with the word “witch” in it is guaranteed to get my attention and when the synopsis is as fascinating as the one of Akata Witch, the book keeps my attention.

Akata Witch follows Sunny, a 12 year old American-Nigerian girl whose parents moved their family back to Nigeria when she was nine years old. She has a lot of things to deal with. For one thing, she’s an albino which exposes to a lot of censure and ridicule from her peers. Then there is her relationship with her father which is bad and beyond; he seems to resent her for reasons she doesn’t understand. Then there are her brothers who take for granted the freedoms that she longs for. Her mother is strict though with good reason as there is a serial killer going around targeting young children. After a particularly bad fight at school where Sunny is beaten by her peers, she is befriended by Orlu, a boy who Sunny has seen looking at her though he hasn’t said anything to her. He introduces her to Chichi who lives with her strange mother in a dilapidated shack full to bursting with books. Chichi initiates Sunny in the ways of the Leopard People, people who have and use magic, and they all meet Sasha, a delinquent who has been sent to Nigeria from America. The book follows Sunny as she comes to terms with her heritage and finds out more about herself, her culture, her country and her people than she thought she ever would.

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It’s written simply which makes it very accessible to younger readers but it deals with a lot of complex themes that will engage older readers as well. Most fascinating of all to me was the Nigerian mythology that I had not previously come upon in fiction. I love how the world suddenly expands and there are so many different characters and creatures that I am not familiar with. The characters are very complex and while it does feel at times that Okorafor tries to deal with too many things in a limited space, she does pull it off. Themes of self-esteem and confidence are prominent here as are issues of colour and race, mainly through Sasha’s narration of how he is treated in America. Also present is a strong feminist narrative thread when Sunny goes up against sexist people when she asks to be allowed to play soccer with the boys. The parental discord is jarring and I was alarmed at the way Sunny was punished after she stays out long after her curfew.

Other things to love include the spirit faces that are badass and revelatory of the characters. The magical island inhabited and frequented only by Leopard People is evokes a Hogwarts feel. But what is most awesome is how much prominence is given to scholars in the world Okorafor has created. Every time a person learns something, they are literally awarded by money appearing for them. Their leaders are all scholars and those who have dedicated their lives to learning. I love how innovative that is.

Sunny did sometimes read as much older than the twelve she is said to be but this may be a cultural thing so it didn’t bother me too much.

Don’t read Akata Witch just because it is written by a POC and contains POC characters, read it because it is a good book and you’ll have fun reading it.

2 responses to “Review: Akata Witch (Akata Witch #1) by Nnedi Okorafor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s