Fifteen-year-old Amandla’s mother has always been strange. For starters, she’s a white woman living in Sugar Town, one of South Africa’s infamous shanty towns. She won’t tell anyone, not even Amandla, about her past. And she has visions, including ones that promise the return of Amandla’s father as if he were a prince in a fairytale, but their hardscrabble life is no fairytale.
Amandla knows her father is long gone – since before Amandla was born – and she’s pretty sure he’s not a prince. He’s just another mystery and missing piece of her mother’s past, and one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give them strange looks – that and the fact that Amandla is black and her mother is not.
Lately, her mother has been acting even more strangely, so when Amandla finds a mysterious address at the bottom of her mother’s purse along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. With her best friends by her side, Amandla is ready to take on the devil himself, and as she confronts devastating family secrets and pain that has lasted a generation, taking on the devil is exactly what she must do.
Oh. My. Heart. This book! I don’t even know what to tell you. I just finished reading Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn, and I absolutely adored it.
The setting was beautifully described – both in terms of location and community – I really go the sense that I was there with Amandla, Lil Bit and Goodness. The characters were absolutely delightful. I loved spending time with them, and watching their friendships grow. There was something really wonderful about walking with Amandla as her world grew to let in new friends and neighbours and family. I can’t even pick a favourite character in this one – they were all so wonderful.
All of these characters really got under my skin and into my heart so I really felt everything Nunn put them through – I laughed out loud with them, I swoon at blossoming love, I held my breath for them, and I cried (a lot). There are a lot of themes touched on as the story unfolds – racism, poverty, privilege, feminism, drug use, violence, and more, and I felt like all of them were explored in a sensitive way. Also, where these issues were discussed it felt like it fit in the story – nothing felt forced in for the sake of it.
I think Sugar Town Queens is an fabulous example of what YA writing can be and do, and I absolutely recommend this one to anyone looking for bold, fun, and moving read full of heart and hope.
Biggest thanks to Allen and Unwin for providing a copy for me to review!
Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn
Out now from Allen & Unwin
Source: I received a free copy from Allen & Unwin for review (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Young Adult contemporary fiction
Format: Paperback, 291 pages