Reviews /

The Door of No Return

Authored by Kwame Alexander
Published by Anderson Press

A brilliantly engaging story of Offin, an Asante boy, told through straightforward poetic devices.

Offin lives in the village of Upper Kwanta, part of West Africa now called Ghana, in the latter half of the 19th century. He is part of a happy extended family, attends school, loves swimming, and is soon to take part in his initiation. If he succeeds, he will pass into manhood. The first half of the book builds a vivid picture of the society that Offin is part of. The action includes Offin’s conflicts with his teacher, and the challenge to his bully of a cousin to a swimming race. The story turns when the annual wrestling contest between Upper and Lower Kwanta ends in a disastrous event, a death, that eventually leads to Offin’s journey away from everything he knows, across his world and into the vicious hands of slave traders.

Kwame Alexander tells this gripping story mainly through poetry. The words are economical, not that many on each page, but the effect is richly descriptive and effective in moving the action forward and gripping the reader. Told as if Offin is speaking directly to us we are immersed in his thoughts and reactions as the events unfold. The first half of the book helps us to understand how life was lived in West Africa and therefore emphasises that Black History and culture have deep roots sorely disrupted when thousands were transported against their will.

The Door of No Return is the first in a trilogy of verse novels following Offin’s life. I can’t wait to read the next two instalments! An essential addition to every KS3 and KS4 library. Highly recommended.

You can listen to Kwame talking to Nikki Gamble about The Door of No Return and its origin here: