Thursday, July 15, 2010

Throwback Thursday: Growing Yams in London

Growing Yams in London by Sophia Acheampong 2006

Picadilly Press

Rating: 3.5/5

IQ "Makdiva: Not LOL! Totally embarrassing-my lips were left in the air before I realized we had company.
PartyBharti: Ha! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Makdiva: Bharti?
PartyBharti: Sorry, I fell off my chair and my finger got stuck on the 'a' key.
Makdiva: Liar! There's an exclamation mark
PartyBharti: Ok, but I did fall off my chair. " pg. 59 An IM conversation

Makeeda is enjoying her life in London. She has friends and even a potential boyfriend. Besides juggling strict parents, trying to figure out if DJ Nelson likes her and maintaining her friendships Makeeda also struggles with her Ghanaian culture. She doesn't know much about it and this never really bothered her. But things are starting to change, and life is getting more complicated.

As usual I was charmed and fascinated by everyday life in London, especially since this one was less serious drama and more of the drama that results from misunderstanding and lack of communication (still not sure about her relationship with Nelson, it was a bit weird). This was a relatively easy read, the British terms could be figured out based on contest. I gathered that the GCSE is like a high school entrance exam? I do wonder if all the British bands mentioned were real or made up (like Fairytale, 221). Does anyone know? I loved how everyone says "All right?" in place of "hey" or "what's up". I think I got a better feel for how teenagers in London interact with each other. The author did a good job with IMs and text messages. Sometimes authors include technology and it just doesn't work because they mix up what goes with what. Sophia Acheampong makes no such mistake and the IM conversations were particularly entertaining.

One of my favorite parts of the novel was the emotional and family aspect of it. Makeeda isn't overly rebellious of her parents and Ghanaian culture, but she does resist some of their rules. The reader isn't talked down to as the author talks about Ghanaian culture, the explanation of Ghanaian terms is very subtle, it comes from conversations or the context around it.Her relationship to her parents felt authentic and I'm glad that her parents weren't ghost figures, they had an active presence in her life. Not only were her parents active, but Makeeda actually spent time with her younger sister, Delphina. Sometimes they get along, sometimes they don't. Their relationship was refreshing because while Makeeda is annoyed by Delphy, she doesn't hate her (too many times siblings in YA books only seem to hate each other). It seems obvious to the reader right away that Makeeda has two admirers. However, as the novel continues, I began to doubt if a certain someone really did like her, since he dated other people. I was suspicious about DJ Nelson for most of the novel and I didn't always buy their relationship, it just seemed odd. I also thought her teacher's resistance to Makeeda researching Yaa Asantewaa (A Ghanian Queen) was puzzling. That particular storyline did not go where I thought it was going and I wasn't satisfied with the result. SPOILER, highlight to read: I thought Makeeda's teacher was so against it because she was a bit racist. What I mean is that she didn't think Ghanaian culture (or even African culture) had any important figures to learn about, therefore she didn't want Makeeda to do the project. Instead she claims that she just thought there wouldn't have been enough reference material. The author could have really done something with that storyline and I was disappointed that she did not. *End of Spoiler

Growing Yams in London is a beguiling novel that looks at life in London for Ghanaian teenagers. It's yet another novel that emphasizes that even if we have different cultural backgrounds, the struggles we go through are mostly the same, especially as teenagers. It can seem a repetitive message but it's one that some people obviously still need to hear. Makeeda is a funny, sometimes awkward main character. She is someone that everyone can relate to, especially in her struggles with her parents, and in trying to juggle school, friends and her slowly blossoming love life. All the characters are well developed and a lot of fun to read it (especially Nelson's friends and Makeeda's best friend Bharti). The IQ shows the humorous side of this novel and it's a very fun read. I look forward to learning more about them. I'm eager to start reading the sequel to see what's next for Makeeda and to learn if her little sister was able to grow yams in London :)

Disclosure: Received from Book Fairy #3 Thank you Kaz! *hugs*

Throwback Thursday is hosted by Take Me Away Reading


  1. This sounds wonderful. Thanks, as always for review that really tells me what to expect. :)

  2. Excellent review - you've made me really want to pick up my copy of this. I'm glad you found the British terms easy to pick up - I'm so used to reading US books that I don't even notice the language differences anymore myself, but that's interesting.


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