Written by Ibi Zoboi, Okoye to the People is an absolute must read for fans of the hugely successful Black Panther. This novel deals with some serious subject matter, but does so as a true YA title in a way that will engage young readers in both story and subject.
The story joins Okoye as a young woman on her first experience with leaving Wakanda as part of a humanitarian trip to New York City. The young Dora Milaje takes great pride in her position and her country, but struggles to hide her identity and opinions. It’s clear the world does not value Wakanda as it should be, seeing her beloved country as a poor African nation to be pitied rather than revered. When real estate mogul Stella Evans takes a keen interest in King T’Chaka, Okoye’s suspicion in the woman’s motives only grows. She also finds herself thrown into conflict in the area of Brownsville, a neighborhood struggling with gentrification and a mysterious drug called pyrobliss.
Upon meeting the young people of Brownsville, Okoye quickly realizes the neighborhood is viewed by New York much the same way as Wakanda is viewed by the world. What’s meant to be an easy protection assignment turns into much more as Okoye vows to help the people of Brownsville. She must find a way to help the community gripped by pyrobliss addiction without revealing her true identity and the extent of Wakanda’s advances. At its heart, Okoye to the People takes a hard look at the effects of both gentrification and drug addiction in low income areas that are often forgotten by the upper echelons of society who see only a chance to take advantage of the community. Okoye must decide whether to follow her orders or her own convictions as she learns about the struggling Brownsville community and the ongoing drug ring enabling the gentrification of the area.
Zoboi does an excellent job at tackling these complex topics in a writing style that meets young readers on their level through a vibrant and engaging character and world. This is a fantastic read to broaden the minds of young readers and explore both the topics at hand and the reality of how one country or community can be underestimated based on preconceived notions.
Okoye to the People is available for preorder now and hits shelves everywhere March 22.