Review of The Door of No Return

The Door of No Return
by Kwame Alexander
Middle School    Little, Brown    397 pp.    g
9/22    978-0-316-44186-5    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-44206-0    $9.99

Alexander’s (The Crossover, rev. 5/14; The Undefeated, rev. 3/19) latest verse novel, the first in a projected trilogy, is historical fiction set in 1860, in an Asante Kingdom village. Kofi Offin learns about the world through his storyteller grandfather Nana Mosi: how he came to be named after the river; the origin of the rivalry with neighboring Lower Kwanta; and the history of “the wonderfuls,” the white colonials who have claimed dominion over their nation of Ghana. While Kofi’s school teacher has an affinity for all things British (he’s “on a mission to capsize our culture,” Nana says), Kofi is content to learn from his grandfather, even as his own highly engaging story play out through interactions with those around him. There’s Ama, Kofi’s childhood friend and the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen; his best friend Ebo; and the cousin who torments Kofi. And there’s his older brother Kwasi, the newest athlete to compete in the village games during the Annual Kings festival. When a wrestling contest results in tragedy, the tentative peace with Lower Kwanta is broken. As a result, Kofi is taken captive, and the book now becomes a searing chronicle of the terror that will carry him to “the door of no return” and far from home. A master storyteller himself, Alexander has taken great care to incorporate familiar West African sayings, folklore characters, and rituals. Themes of conflict within and between cultures, and of war and peace, hate and love, despair and hope are deeply embedded throughout this gripping tale that forefronts the humanity of those who were forced into slavery.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.
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