City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson, review by Melissa Fox
I'll admit something up front: like most Americans, I don't know a whole lot about the situation in the East African Countries. I know some -- that there's corruption, and there's violence, and that it's not exactly a safe place -- but I don't know the particulars of the situation.
In her debut young adult novel, City of Saints & Thieves, Natalie C. Anderson tackles East African issues -- from militia violence to the working conditions in the gold mines -- through the story of a 16-year-old Congolese refugee, Tina.
Ever since her mother's murder in the office of her employer, Tina has had one goal: to take down her mother's murderer. She thinks it's her mother's employer, the gold mining big wig Mr. Greyhill, whom had taken Tina and her mother in when they fled the Congo five years previously. However, in this intense young adult thriller, things don't go according to plan: when she breaks into the Greyhill compound to put her plan into action, she's caught by Greyhill's son, Michael, who insists upon his father's innocence. Tina's capture and Michael's dogged insistence set events into motion that lead Tina to question everything she's believed in up to this point as she digs into her mother's past, looking for justice.
A former UN and NGO worker, Anderson has the experience needed to portray the complexity of the situation in East Africa. She handles the complex issues with grace, keeping it appropriate for her target audience (8th grade and up) but never shying away from the difficulty life in both Kenya and Congo presents. It helps, too, that she draws all of her characters -- from the sympathetic ones to the "bad guys" -- in varying shades of grey. It makes for a more interesting story.
There was a twist near the end, too, which I didn't quite see coming, but which raised the stakes and kept me plowing through until it's resolution.
An excellent debut novel.