Book Review: Akata Witch -- Written by Nnedi Okorafor
reviewed by Kadjata Bah, age 16
The book Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor is perfect for fantasy and coming-of-age fans. Akata Witch centers on Sunny Nwazue, a young girl living in Nigeria who discovers a secret, lush world of juju. Reminiscent of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, Okorafor brings a fun, rare, and unapologetically African perspective to the fantasy realm.
Sunny was born in America but lives in Nigeria with her family, where she is ridiculed for being an albino. However, behind her condition are magical powers that deem her a “free agent.” Sunny’s friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha—all graced with their own abilities—introduce Sunny to a strange world within her own, hidden from normal society. Sunny finally finds a place where she feels she belongs, but it isn’t long until she uncovers a much darker side to her new life as a free agent. Sunny must not only become familiar with her abilities and surroundings, but find and defeat a cold-blooded serial killer before a dangerous prophecy comes true.
Okorafor defines this specific genre as Africanjujuism, a subgenre of fantasy that blends real African spirituality with imaginative elements. As an African person, I had never read a fantasy novel that was truly African until Akata Witch. I had read folktales and fables, which I loved, but not anything like the fantasy novels that were so prevalent. While I am not Nigerian, seeing West African culture represented was groundbreaking for me—a bit of magic on its own.
Akata Witch is a must-read for those who have an affinity for fantasy, and even those who may be looking to dip into a new genre. The characters are unique, fun, and loveable, and the worldbuilding is incredible. The book is exciting and action packed while staying true to the youthfulness of the characters and their world.
In the very beginning of the book, Okorafor includes a quote from Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o. He expresses, in the fitting spirit of Akata Witch, “Here, in the new venture, the extraordinary, the magical, the wonder, and even the strange come out of the ordinary and the familiar.”