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Book Reviews

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander (A Book Review)

Dreams are today’s answers for tomorrow’s questions.

11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. It’s a mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets…

Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things more than anything else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he’s hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.

But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi’s brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight.

You are only fine, until you are not.

The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable–a sudden death–occurs…

The river does not care how grown you are. 

As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

THIS BOOK…WHEW! I was NOT prepared for the journey this book took me on.

New York Times Bestselling Author and poet Kwame Alexander is back with another powerful middle grade novel, The Door of No Return.  It’s the first book in an exciting new trilogy. It took me approximately 81 minutes to finish reading this book from cover to cover. When I tell you I was captured from the very first sentence, I mean it. Once I started reading, I had to find out Kofi’s fate and how this story would end. Kwame’s lyrical writing can transcend you and make you feel like you are a part of the story with the characters.

Written in verse, The Door of No Return is a historical fiction novel set in the 19th century in the Asante Kingdom (modern day Ghana in West Africa). Fair warning: Some parts of this book are hard to digest and read, but it’s an important story based on the transatlantic slave trade that NEEDS to be told. Where was this book when I was in middle school and high school?

The year is 1860 and readers are introduced to 11-year-old Kofi Offin. Kofi is part of the Asante Kingdom, he comes from a tight-knit family, he has a crush on a girl named Ama, and most of all he loves to swim.

“Where I go each day after school is both hideout and oasis. It is where I am student and king. A place that holds me and my destiny safely in its deep-blue arms. The river where I splash and splash and kick into twilight.”

While reading this book, readers learn more about Kofi, his family, his peers, his culture, and his teacher, Mr. Goodluck Philip who teaches him to speak the “Queen’s English.” You quickly learn that Kofi is an endearing character who you’ll be rooting for throughout the entire book. I felt a myriad of different emotions while reading this book: happiness, sadness, and joy. There are some heavy topics, but they are handled in an approachable way for middle grade readers and young adults. I could see why this book was hard to write as Kwame states in his author’s note.

The ending of this book took an unexpected twist, and it left me sitting on the edge of my bed wanting more…literally!  How will I be able to wait for book number two? I was left with so many questions and feelings afterwards.

Overall, I highly recommend reading The Door of No Return. It’s a compelling story with amazing storytelling that will captivate you from beginning to end. Five stars!

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