Okorafor captured my heart with this brilliant and original young adult fantasy novel. Akata Witch is the story of Sunny, but more than that, it is the story of her community. Sunny goes to school in Nigeria, where she’s been living since she was nine. She was born in America to two Nigerian parents, who decided it would be best to move back when she was a young girl. Now, at almost thirteen, her world is shaken when she gets to know her classmate Orlu a little better. Orlu introduces her to Chichi, who introduces her to the world of the Leopard People. Her community grows exponentially, and she realizes she may have more power than she realized.
The world building in this book is incredible. I love that Okorafor not only gives readers a colorful picure of Nigeria, but she builds an incredible universe accessible only to the Leopard people. She weaves history and folklore into this rich story. I loved the inclusion of recipes and (fictional) historical text in the novel.
Sunny, Orlu, Sasha, and Chichi have big shoes to fill, and they are quite the motley bunch. Their friendship runs so deep so quickly, which allows them to accomplish more than can be expected. I loved how their teacher Anatov continued to remind them that although they are great, they are not the only ones who can save the world, they are not the only ones who are special. The concept of humility, particularly in understanding your place in the world, is an intrinsic element to the Leopard people, and one I connected with. In my practice as a social worker, I often hear something similar from my boss. He reminds me that if I am not able to do something, someone else will be able to step up to the task. I found it fascinating that Okorafor pushed this idea throughout the text, but also found it somewhat reassuring as the characters learned to cope with it.
I am so excited to read the sequel! I’m requesting it from my library immediately, and looking forward to it coming in.