Sugar Town Queens
by Nunn, Malla

"A biracial girl living in post-apartheid South Africa is determined to unveil the mystery of her white mother's hidden past"-

*Starred Review* Fifteen-year-old Amandla has always set her sights on leaving Sugar Town, a slum outside Durban, South Africa. However, her future is difficult to imagine, as she knows only three things about herself: she does well in school, her father (whom she never met) was Black, her mother is white. When her mother returns from one of her secret trips to Durban, Amandla finds a note and a wad of cash, prompting her to investigate where her mother goes. What she discovers is family she never knew about and a history she couldn't have imagined. Rather than leaning on a clichéd rags-to-riches story, Nunn grounds her tale in Amandla's convictions and embrace of her life and neighbors in Sugar Town. Complexities of race and racism in Mandela's freed South Africa are handled with realism and strength, both in Sugar Town and the sudden dichotomy of Amandla's life. Abandonment, poverty, parental illness, friendship, first love, unexpected allies, and sexual harassment are some of the topics woven into the whole, but it is the resilient community that is front and center in Nunn's uncommon and detailed setting. Readers will cheer Amandla as she discovers who she is and where she came from in this captivating book. Grades 7-12. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A South African teen unravels the mysteries of her own and her mother's pasts. Amandla's life is filled with the unknown. Not only are her mother Annalisa's "episodes" unpredictable, Amandla also knows next to nothing about either of their personal histories. Mixed-race Amandla does know that her father was Black, which is rather scandalous even in her post-Mandela nation given that Annalisa is White. When Annalisa returns from Durban on Amandla's 15th birthday, badly shaken and without her usual practical gifts, Amandla finds an address and lots of cash in Annalisa's purse. She decides to investigate in hopes of finally getting answers to her many questions. What she discovers could have led to a basic rags-to-riches story, but Nunn avoids that trope, choosing instead to focus on the amazing community of their township, Sugar Town; indeed, the setting is one of the strongest aspects of the story. The community of strong women who support Amandla is juxtaposed with one she later encounters that lacks the same cohesiveness. What follows are many highly dramatic turns of events and a narrative that shows a young woman reckoning with possible paths lying ahead and harsh judgments of women's behavior. The novel ultimately acknowledges that different people behave in different ways, even given similar circumstances. This origin-story mystery features a cast that reflects the diversity of its setting. Engrossing to the end. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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