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BITTER by Akwaeke Emezi Kirkus Star


by Akwaeke Emezi

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-593-30903-2
Publisher: Knopf

A teenager wrestles with hope and revolution at a boarding school for gifted artists.

Seventeen-year-old Bitter has finally found a home at Eucalyptus, which is run by the enigmatic Miss Virtue. Her best friend, Blessing, helps keep Bitter’s dark, curly hair shaved. Behind the brick walls of Eucalyptus they are safe from the bullets and anxiety-inducing protests ringing through the air in the trouble-torn city of Lucille. But the walls aren’t enough when Bitter starts to engage with the community of activists and citizens whose lives are ravaged by monsters. Eventually, her righteous anger births art that threatens to consume everyone with a fire that must be quelled or embraced. Emezi packs this novel with timely tension as characters struggle with knowing when and how to act in the face of unjustifiable state violence, among other societal atrocities. They acknowledge the reality of burnout for even the most stalwart resistance fighters and affirm that rest and physical nourishment are critical. Conversations about the impact of figurehead leadership show the importance of the collective as a driving force: “Leaders are dangerous. One person is weak; the people are strong.” The story introduces a space where queer characters from myriad faith traditions receive love and support from peers and adults in a world that is not perfect but in which the people strive to create space for radical inclusion.

A compact, urgent, and divine novel.

(Fiction. 14-18)