by Natalie C. Anderson
Published January 24th 2017
Question: What is worth more than diamonds and gold? What is the most stable currency? What thing, when stolen, becomes most dangerous and precious of all?
Answer: a secret.
This is a young adult contemporary fiction set in modern day Kenya about revenge. The story is set in a fictionalized city called Sangui which is meant to be a mix between Mombasa’s coastal vibes and Nairobi’s hustling nature. It also takes us to Congo and follows the plight of women today in that country with many businesses and government officials not putting in a lot of effort to fix the problems. This was such a breath of fresh air when it comes to YA books. It almost gave me the same feeling I got when I was reading Rubbing Stones by Nancy Burkey.
Tina is a Congolese refugee who escaped to Kenya together with her mother, Anju Yvette. Anju gets employed as a maid at the Greyhill’s home, a wealthy family well known in Sangui City but her life is cut short when she is murdered in that house and Tina is certain she knows who did it. She is left behind, orphaned with her small sister whom she takes to a convent school where she knows she will be safe. Tina then turns to the streets to survive as she plots her revenge. She joins a street gang, the Goondas, and slowly gets better at stealing, readying herself for her master plan.
“Dirt. Money. Blood.”
Five years go by and she goes back to the house she lost her mother ready for payback. Her past collides with her present as the memories come flooding back once she sets foot in the house. She has no room to mess up since she involved the Goondas in her plan. They will not take it lightly if anything goes wrong so she has to be at the top of her game. But things don’t go as planned.
“You have been left alone in the dark before. This is nothing.”
Just pick up the book already. Honestly, truly. This is a book I could have easily read in one sitting. It was impeccably written with an amazing story line bringing in current issues being faced in two African countries, with one that is still war-torn. The mining issues in Congo and how companies work together with the thugs to get cheap labor, the issues of rape and abuse of women, the constant fear among the people left behind and how no one can trust anybody around them and company executives going with the wind when it comes to questionable practices because they feel like that’s just the way things are done in that part of the world. They are all present day issues.
“Mr. Greyhill’s hands may not be clean, but there is gold dust mixed in with the dirt and blood.”
The treatment of refugees in host countries comes up and how they try to stay on the down low so that they are not harassed by the people who should be protecting them regardless of their legal status. This is something that happens a lot. They are asked to make payments for basically no reason whatsoever whenever they need help from the authorities. The broken system of the UN is also highlighted in the book and it’s important to note that the writer was a humanitarian worker in this neck of the woods so the insights feel very real.
“People are complicated creatures, my dear. The ways they find of explaining the bad things that happen in the world are not always the right ones. Sometimes they are simply the easy ones. They are the ones that give them enough comfort to sleep at night, the ones that let them take the blame off themselves.”
I could have easily given it five stars but there were tiny things that kept irritating me. Things I could have easily overlooked but I just couldn’t. Mavi. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone curse using that word. Nope. Never heard it in my life. Shonde too. Every time I read it I just had to put down my iPad for a while. The placement of some of the Swahili words was just off but she did apologies in the Author’s Note. The last few chapters also felt meh to me. They were just there. But the book is still brilliant. It’s one of the best books I have read in 2017 to be honest.
I just wish I could get my own copy of the paperback version in Nairobi. I want it so bad!
Looking for a diverse YA book? You found it. But don’t expect Gone Girl in there because I did not get that vibe.
If you are interested in any documentaries about Congo, check these ones out: