If you’ve been searching for your next middle grade series starter, look no further! Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun combines superhero action with mystery and intrigue. I absolutely loved Onyeka, the way she has to navigate her own perception of her hair, and the action! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Onyeka has a lot of hair—the kind that makes strangers stop in the street and her peers whisper behind her back. At least she has Cheyenne, her best friend, who couldn’t care less what other people think. Still, Onyeka has always felt insecure about her vibrant curls…until the day Cheyenne almost drowns and Onyeka’s hair takes on a life of its own, inexplicably pulling Cheyenne from the water.
At home, Onyeka’s mother tells her the shocking truth: Onyeka’s psycho-kinetic powers make her a Solari, one of a secret group of people with super powers unique to Nigeria. Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies…
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
One of my favorite elements of Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is the way that Onyeka navigates her own feelings about her hair. The perceptions she has versus what other thinks, versus who it interacts with her own powers. On an emotional level, this was tender. And on a craft and thematic level, I loved the connection between this and embracing ourselves. Secondly, I loved the action! The pacing for this middle grade is superb and I can see so many readers enjoying it.
The combination of the action plus superhero skills (and getting to know more superhero friends) makes Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun feel contemporary and inventive. Not only that, but this book infuses a heavy dose of mystery and secrets. I can’t spoil any, but as the book progresses, I became drawn into this element the most! There list of things to love is long. Of course, I still also loved the relationship between Onyeka and her family.
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Additionally, Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is about control. About our emotions which can be seen as being ‘too’ much or ‘too’ strong, and about embracing our feelings. Of seeing them as a strength and not something to suppress. Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is an utter win for middle grade readers looking for superpowers and fantasy. Plus after that ending, they’ll be begging you for the sequel! Find Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.