YA UF in Botswana with a protagonist of colour? Sign me up!
I tried to get the arc for this book, I didn't get it, but thankfully I requested it close to its release date, so I could just buy it and read it to my heart's content!
I was already excited about this book featuring a WOC, but I was even happier when it turned out she is biracial - I, myself, am biracial and if it's hard to find books featuring non-white protagonists, it's practically a miracle to find books featuring biracial ones.
I'm sure plenty of people would think "Who cares about her race" - it's not about that, it's about visibility: media representation is important, if you grow up without seeing others like you on tv, in books, you are alienated. The beauty standards never reflect what you look like, your experiences are never given voice. So, yes, Conyza's race is important, and let us all be thankful that the cover wasn't white-washed.
Conyza (Connie) was a very sensible, realistic character. Her forays into what-ifs in her head are hilarious and relatable. Of course, she possesses the not so relatable ability to tell the future and see dead people.
She starts out with these inklings of when disaster will strike and then she has a massive headache during which Rakwena, the scarred school's outcast, warns her something is imminent. When she wakes up, she is able to hear what people are thinking.
Naturally, she is intrigued. How did Rakwena know what was going on? But everyone, including her grandfather, once a college professor like her father, and now a wise man to whom people go for advice, warns her away from Rakwena.
With her new-found powers Connie realises something: a group of young girls' minds are blank, as if they were being controlled by a puppetmaster. The whole thing is really creepy, since the girls are very young and they have periods of time they cannot recall, they're bruised and injured and they know they've been doing bad things - things they wouldn't do if they were in control of themselves. Connie makes it her mission to use her skills and free these girls with the help of her grandfather and her friends.
The book was a bit too slow paced and predictable at times, but the only thing I really disliked about it was the girl-on-girl hate. It was very upsetting to read Conyza being judgemental over Kelly's choices and putting her down at every possible turn, with catty comments about how being a Playboy centerfold is her most
promising career option. It was upsetting to read Lebz slut shaming a girl she was jealous of. Ladies, we need to move past these things.
But there are so many things to like! The fact that it's YA and it's in Botswana! Connie's relationship with her grandfather. Connie's relationship with her white father (my personal favourite). Connie's maturity in dealing with the fact that her father and grandfather do not get along ("(...)you two don’t agree on anything. But you’re both family, and you both love me. That’s enough."). Her friendship with Lebz and Wiki. And, most importantly the whole mystery that involves the paranormal but not the tired YA paranormal standard fare.
Cheryl S. Ntumy's author page at Carina