A Teen Girl Reviews 2018's Most Talked-About YA Book
I have always loved reading. It allows me to escape to a fantastical universe and take a vacation in an alternate dimension, far away from my Earthly struggles. When I open up a novel, there are no more hard decisions to make or consequences to face. Inside a book, someone else can thwart the evil wizard or defeat the dragons for me. After the quick reprieve a book can give me, I am ready to fight the monsters of the real world.
Because of that, last year, I read 78 books. And this year, I’ve read 17 and it’s only March. So trust me, I know my books.
And let me tell you this: Tomi Adeyemi is revolutionary.
Children of Blood and Bone incorporates elements of Adeyemi’s West-African heritage. This culture embodies itself into the grand plot scheme and the wonderful character development, but the true beauty of it is seen in all the novel’s minute details and world-building nuances—from how the characters dress to what the shops look like to how religion shapes their lives. The way Adeyemi intertwines tradition, magical powers and fighting in her piece of writing is, well, magic.
But perhaps even better is that the novel features an all black character cast. All black. All non-white. This is huge. I have almost never seen a YA novel this hyped and this well-known that also has an entirely minority cast. While there are groundbreaking books that are praised for their diversity, it is a rarity in the world of fantasy novels. For once, minorities can self-identify with the protagonist, rather than a side character who only says one sentence or the diversity-imposed best friend. Thank you, Tomi, for putting a bit of yourself in your novels and representing voices who are often not heard in the fantasy genre.
But Children of Blood and Bone is more than just a symbol of diversity; it’s a straight-up amazing book. It’s the perfect mix of action, magic, girl power, princesses, suspense, and just a hint of romance—all the typical tropes of a fantasy novel mastered to perfection. Yet, this novel about releasing magic into Orisha somehow parallels our world on Earth. Somehow in the midst of rather hefty topics—genocide, structural inequality, racial tension, and familial betrayal—the characters seem almost relatable.
Zelie Adebola, the young heroine, is robbed of her magical birthright by a brutal king. Maji—aka magicians—are at the bottom of the societal social class. As a result, our protagonist is persecuted, beaten up, and even has her village destroyed simply because of who she is. But her attempts to stand up for herself, her desperation, and, most of all, her sass are things we can all identify with.
The novel alternates perspectives between a few other characters, Princess Amari being one of my favorites. Amari was for most of her life trapped both literally and metaphorically. While most of us are not stuck inside of a castle for our whole lives, we all can understand what it is like to be controlled by societal expectations. She finally breaks free of her father’s hold, stands up for her best friend, and creates her own journey of justice. With her missteps and flaws, even though she is a princess, she could be my best friend.
Do you want a world you can both escape into and identify with? Do you want a fantasy novel that is different from almost any book you have read? Do you simply want to read a novel that stands out for both its writing and its groundbreaking character cast? I give you Children of Blood and Bone.
By Aishwarya Singh, 17
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