Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2023) Featured Review of The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
Little, Brown Young Readers
September 27, 2022
ISBN: 9780316442060

Kofi Offin experiences the joys and difficulties of village life in 1860’s Ghana.  He enjoys the storytelling of his elders and swimming in the nearby river, while maintaining friendships and rivalries with his peers.  When Kofi’s brother  accidentally kills a member of a rival tribe in a wrestling match, the bonds of tradition and family run deep and strong.  Though repeatedly warned not to leave the confines of the village after dark, Kofi goes for a nighttime swim.  Tragically, he is captured into the slave trade, and taken to ‘the door of no return’ where a terrifying trans-Atlantic journey begins.

First in a planned trilogy, this story told in evocative, sparse verse captures the heartbreak and spirit of those ruthlessly captured for the slave trade.  Alexander takes great care to convey to the middle-level reader the depth of culture and humanity in Ghanaian society.  The aspirations, friendships, and conflicts portrayed are universal and relatable. The sudden disruption and chaos that occurs after Kofi’s capture conveys the terror, despair, and injustice of slavery.  This story is sure to strike an emotional note with the reader.

Perfect for those who enjoy historical fiction in verse, including works by Kip Wilson, Allan Wolf, and Margarita Engle.  This is also a good introduction for those who want do dig deeper into the history of American slavery as they pursue understanding Roots by Alex Haley and the 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

-Stephanie Burdic

Other Nominated Titles:

  • Merci Suarez Plays it Cool by Meg Medina
  • Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango
  • Thirst by Varsha Bajaj
  • Undercover Latina by Aya de Leon

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.