Nubia: The Awakening by Omar Epps and Clarence E. Haynes. Random House, 2022. 9780593428641
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5
Genre: Science fiction or fantasy
What did you like about the book? Nubia: An ancient and legendary African island that was destroyed by a devastating storm. Now, in 2090, the island is all but a faraway dream for Nubian teenagers Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho. Stuck in a New York City plagued by climate change, flooding, and extreme class-disparity, the Nubians refugees struggle to survive in the lower Manhattan swamps all while dealing with the inequalities and disrespect of being at the bottom of the ethnicity totem-pole. Meanwhile, the rich live in Up High, a technology-advanced city that floats in the sky and has exclusive access to its borders. While their people despair that this might be the end for them, Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho feel something different. When they are together, something surges through their bodies – a magic, a power that’s desperate to come out and fight back against the wrongs done to them and the Nubians. The three teens must figure out what powers they have, what secrets their parents are hiding, and how they are all connected to their ancient homeland before the people on Up High use the power for themselves.
Nubia: The Awakening is a fast-paced urban future-fantasy that features West African folklore, the long-term effects 0f climate change, racism and oppressive hierarchy, and topics on what it means to be a refugee community. The story switches between the main three protagonists, Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho, and readers get to see different takes on what is happening to them and the world. All three have great character development, have unique personalities that don’t blend with each other, and have good charisma, so you root for all three of them to succeed, even when they disagree with each other. The stakes are high, the villain is smart, and the three must figure out if what they want in life is best for their people. All main characters are West African refugees.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The cliffhanger ending. It was getting so good too.
To whom would you recommend this book? High school students who like fantasy based on mythology, especially African-inspired tales. Ballad and Dagger by Daniel Jose Older follows a similar story of a people from a fantastical Caribbean island who are uprooted when their island disappears.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Teen fiction/teen science fiction/teen fantasy
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, Cheltenham Township Library System, Elkins Park, PA
Date of review: December 31, 2022
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