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Review: City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

Title: City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Year Published: 2017

Genre: YA Fiction 
Pages: 401
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)Kenya and Congo

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In the shadow of Sangui City, there lives a girl who does not exist. Tina and her mother first arrived in Kenya as refugees from Congo desperately searching for a better life. Trading the peril of their besieged village for the busy metropolis of Sangui, they can barely believe their luck when Tina's mother finds work as a maid for the Greyhills, one of the city's most illustrious families. But there's a dark secret lurking behind the family's immense fortune, and when Tina discovers her mother shot dead in Mr. Greyhill's private study, she knows he pulled the trigger.

With revenge on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving the streets on her own, training as a master thief with the Goondas, Sangui City's local gang. It's a job with the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her a long-awaited chance for vengance. But once Tina returns to the lavish home, she's overcome by memories of her painful past, and the girl who does not exist is caught red-handed, setting into motion a breathless and dangerous cascade of events that will expose not only the truth behind who killed Tina's mother, but even more harrowing secrets from Tina's past that will change everything.

Review: Marsha, the librarian who lent me this book, recommended it because she likes books set in African countries and so do I. I don't know why, really, I just do. I read the blurb and it sounded good. Well, I read it in just two sittings!

I realize that some stories could really be set in almost any country in the world. We all have cell phones, modern cities, similar jobs, etc. But each country lends a bit of it's own culture, making the story that much richer and more interesting. By setting this book in Kenya and the Congo, Anderson was able to inform the reader about the plight of all citizens, but mostly women, in the Congo--raids on villages, gang rapes, and a lack of reliable electricity and necessary medicines. For the parts of the book set in Kenya, the disparities between the uber-rich and the street gangs of homeless youth is stark. While the rich live up on the hill in Segui City with guards, maids, drivers, and cooks, the homeless youth steal to survive and don't have access to an education.

This is one of those novels that has a bit of a fantastic story, fantastic in the sense of "would teenagers really be able to do this?" Especially the last bit of the book where the main characters take on the bad guys. That said, I realize that youth all over the world have to do things I wouldn't think they could do: fight in wars; get married and bear children at awfully young ages; survive rape and forced drug-taking; and escape in whatever means possible to save loved ones and themselves. So perhaps the ending is not so crazy and unrealistic. It just seems that way from my life of privilege. And that is one of the aspects of good literature, set in other parts of the world, that I find so powerful.
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