IKENGA (#BookAllies)

Thank you #BookAllies, Viking Books, and Nnedi Okorafor for the ARC of IKENGA. All opinions are mine.

The Akata series is a tough act to follow, but IKENGA delivers in every sense of the word.

IKENGA is “the Incredible Hulk, but make him a Nigerian pre-teen”.

Superhero-obsessed preteen Nnamdi is mourning the death of his father, a larger-than-life good-guy Police Chief when the ghost of his dad hands him an action figure that turns him into a giant shadow beast called The Man. Determined to bring his father’s killer to justice and bring safety to his hometown, Kaleria (and possibly get rid of his mom’s annoying new boyfriend), Nnamdi/The Man goes on a quest to kick the butt of every criminal in town.

But being The Man is a bigger and scarier responsibility than Nnamdi could have imagined, and the truth about who really killed his father isn’t as cut-and-dry as it seems…

Loved

  • Not gonna lie – reading about criminals having their butts kicked by a giant masquerade (evil spirit) is pretty freaking gratifying.
  • Amazing twists and turns, that leave the reader with the important message that the line between good and evil is often blurred (a huge shocker in the adult world that isn’t discussed nearly often enough in kidlit).
  • Okorafor takes the “smart kids, stupid adults” kidlit trope, ratchets it up to Level Infinity, and the results are subtly but brilliantly hilarious.
  • We don’t have enough well-written boy characters. Nnamdi is an excellent addition to that too-slim canon.
  • Superhero butt-kicking derring-do alongside tender moments of Nnamdi processing his grief and rapidly-changing worldviews, combine for an all-the-feels masterpiece.

Caveats

  • CW – Nnamdi gets shot at. His best frenemy gets kidnapped and physically abused. This is not a kittens and rainbows book.
  • As someone dealing an abuser manipulative enough to reverse the victim and abuser in the public narrative… it was emotionally rough reading for me when the crime ring does this to Nnamdi as well.

Verdict

IKENGA reads like a superhero origin story, leaving the reader eagerly awaiting the sequel.

To note: I don’t know for sure there is a sequel… but this universe is a gold mine and Okarafor knows how to make her fans happy.

IKENGA is out now from Viking Books.

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