Talk about an absolutely amazing read! 😍
Sugar Town Queens is the kind of story that’s easy to fall in love with and hard to put down. It has such complex and fiercely loveable characters — which is what I crave in a good book. And if you’re looking for complicated messy family drama, with ugly secrets hidden, and regrets and love and tragic backstory all tumbling out: THIS is the book for you.
The story follows Amandla who lives in a makeshift town/slum called Sugar Town in South Africa. Her mother has a mental illness that Amandla has to manage, even though she’s only 15 and just trying to survive school and get by in their tiny one-room home. Also her mother is white and Amandla is brown (her Black father a mystery in her life) and Amandla is often ostracized at school for not being “Black enough” OR “white enough”. But life gets a whole lot more complicated when Amandla learns the truth: her mother is the disinherited daughter of an extremely rich and powerful white family, the Bollards. Amandla’s grandma wants to reconnect, but her grandfather is a huge bigot, and there are SO many dark family skeletons in the closet. You just !! Are not ready for what Amandla discovers. I ached for what she goes through; she has so many mixed feelings and hopes and hurt to absorb.
I adored Amandla. 😩🙌🏻 She has such a fantastic voice that leaps off the page, and she’s not ashamed of who she is or where she comes from, while also wanting to know the family secrets and dreaming of a better life for her and her mum. I also loved her friends, especially Lil Bit, who has a great sense of humour, and is just such a loyal and stubborn best friend. They also end up making friends with Sugar Town’s resident “princess”, named Goodness, who they used to think was stuck up but actually she’s amazing. There is also a smidge of romance for Amandla AND there’s a side queer romance which I loved!!
The book unpacks so many themes, and discusses poverty vs gross wealth with keen precision. There’s community love and pride in Amandla’s neighbourhood, as well as shifty people and danger. I found it really hard to forgive the Bollards though…like, the book handles the themes of second chances well while also refusing to let hate and bigotry get a free pass. And OH there are tense scenes and some massive plot twists.
The writing is engaging and captivating, and you will fall in love with Amandla’s voice as you tumble into this story of family drama, trauma, and redemption. I’m so so glad I got to read this one!
Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review-copy! It’s out August 2021.
Fifteen-year-old Amandla’s mother has always been strange. For starters, she’s a white woman living in Sugar Town, one of South Africa’s infamous shanty towns. She won’t tell anyone, not even Amandla, about her past. And she has visions, including ones that promise the return of Amandla’s father as if he were a prince in a fairytale, but their hardscrabble life is no fairytale.
Amandla knows her father is long gone – since before Amandla was born – and she’s pretty sure he’s not a prince. He’s just another mystery and missing piece of her mother’s past, and one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give them strange looks – that and the fact that Amandla is black and her mother is not.
Lately, her mother has been acting even more strangely, so when Amandla finds a mysterious address at the bottom of her mother’s purse along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. With her best friends by her side, Amandla is ready to take on the devil himself, and as she confronts devastating family secrets and pain that has lasted a generation, taking on the devil is exactly what she must do.