Published by: Simon and Schuster, 9th June 2022
Hooray! Courtesy of Simon and Schuster and NetGalley, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of this much anticipated middle grade novel that I've heard so much about. And, trust me, readers are in for a treat. Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is a fantastically fresh superhero novel set in both London and Nigeria and Onyeka's superpower, or ike as it is called in Nigeria, just happens to be linked to her hair...
British-Nigerian girl, Onyeka, has spent her whole life battling with her hair. But when she finds out it has psychokinetic powers she is promptly whisked away to The Academy of the Sun in Nigeria - a training programme for Solari (children with superpowers). But it's not long before Onyeka and her new friends are caught up in a battle that threatens the entire future of the Solari.
Firstly, don't be fooled! What begins as a fairly normal story - two friends heading to a swimming pool in London - swiftly tranforms into fast-paced, enthralling adventure as Onyeka develops overnight superpowers and embarks on a journey of acceptance and self-love. Finding herself in Nigeria surrounded by other Solari, Onyeka is not only faced with having to make new friends - as well as making friends with her hair- but she is forced to face serious questions about her identity and her family.
The world-building in the novel is excellent and has such a level of depth and detail that you know a whole world, beyond just one book, is about to open in front of you. The plot is visual, action-packed and dynamic and it's clear to see why it has been snapped up as a feature film. I loved Onyeka's ongoing battle with her hair and her burgeoning friendship with Adanna, compared to her solid relationship with Cheyenne, gives the story heart and warmth. There's humour as Onyeka's hair comes into its own and tons of secrets to unravel.
Reminding me of the Nevermoor series and also comparable to the new Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, this is clearly going to be a epic fantasy series. I loved the Nigerian setting and the authenticity that Tola Okogwu brings to the narrative. There's also some excellent haircare tips woven into the story, braided seamlessly with virtual quests and training battles. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it on screen as much as I'm hoping for book two.
A big thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing me a review copy. Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun publishes tomorrow, June 9th 2022.