How You Grow Wings by Rimma Onoseta

How You Grow Wings by Rimma Onoseta. Algonquin, 2022. 9781643751917

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: ARC Paperback (publication 8/9/22)

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Cheta and Zam are two very different Nigerian sisters. Cheta is stubborn, defiant, confrontational, and not afraid to speak her mind. Zam is anxious, timid, and avoids conflict whenever possible, which angers Cheta. Both live in the house of their abusive mother, who fires verbal and physical assaults whenever they do anything wrong. So when Zam is given the chance to live with her rich aunt and cousins, she immediately jumps ship, leaving Cheta jealous, resentful, and alone with their awful mother. Even though she now lives in luxury with good education and resources, Zam quickly comes to realize that familial relationship issues are not exclusive to the poor. Desperate to escape in any way possible, Cheta also leaves home but ends up on the poorer side of Nigeria, where selling drugs and “serving” rich, political men are more than common. As time passes and Cheta gets more desperate for money, she decides to enter a dangerous gamble that will either damn her or free her forever. And Zam must decide whether to keep hiding in her own anxiety and fear, or to try to help her sister for once in her life. 

Intense yet tender, How You Grow Wings is an emotional story about family dynamics, loyalty vs. love, and handling truth. It explores generational trauma, specific to Nigerian families, domestic abuse, colorism, classism, and, most importantly, overcoming it all. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? Teens who want to read realistic fiction about sisters, family dynamics, or stories set in Africa.

Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Teen fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Laila Carter, Boston Arts Academy, Dorchester MA

Date of review: August 8, 2022

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