What Happened to Janet Uzor was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy from Masobebooks earlier this year. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know how much I enjoy YA mystery novels. The premise of one set in Nigeria was certainly intriguing.
“A year after their best friend, Janet Uzor dies in a drowning incident, Pamela and Ebere are trying to cope and move on in their own unique ways. Pamela buries her emotions, while Ebere has been on a mission to find out what really happened to their friend, an excellent swimmer, whose death seems unfair and unconscionable. When Pamela begins to receive sinister letters threatening her life, she finally has to confront her fears, and with the help of Ebere, on/off boyfriend Eche, good friend Daniel Kalio, she sets out to find out who is after her life. But to succeed, they must first unravel the mystery behind Janet’s death before the clock runs out and Pamela finds herself at the mercy of a bloodthirsty killer.”
I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the title. I mean, I already had questions like “Who is Janet Uzor?” “What happened to her?“ and “Why do we care what happened to her?“ going through my mind.
I got the answers to my questions, but I didn’t see any of them coming. Miracle Emeka- Nkwor, thank you for putting my years of watching Criminal Minds to waste. Dr. Spencer Reid would be disappointed. (If you’ve never seen an episode of Criminal Minds, you need to get your life together, respectfully.)
Each year, a student at Afobiri secondary school mysteriously dies, and the latest victim, Janet Uzor, was reported to have drowned despite being an excellent swimmer. It’s the Christmas break a year after Janet Uzor’s death, and her two friends are still grieving. While Ebere is certain that there is more to everything going on, Pamela is simply trying to move on with her life until she starts receiving threatening letters.
Fear sets in, and they must not only figure out who is sending these letters, but also find out if these unexplainable deaths are linked, and the only way to do so is to uncover what truly happened to their friend, Janet Uzor.
This book was well-written, and the fact that it is set in Port Harcourt drew me in. The Nigerian in me was pleased! I mean, it’s not every day we come across a YA mystery novel set in Nigeria and written by a Nigerian. I enjoyed the pidgin English and it was nice to pick up on the subtle jokes, but the funniest thing had to be the Nigerian police in this book genuinely trying to do their job. It was unrealistic, but I didn’t mind it because if we can’t have it in real life, we can at least read about it in a book. We deserve nice things abeg.
While the main focus was an unsettling murder mystery, I like how the author was still able to explore how Nigerian parents interact with their teenage children.
What Happened to Janet Uzor is a plot-driven novel, and it picked up right from the beginning. It had just the right amount of suspense, twists, and turns, and just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author decided to throw in the plot twist and big reveal.
Overall, it was a really good read and a wonderful debut novel by Miracle Emeka-Nkwor. I look forward to reading more of her work. If you like a fast-paced YA mystery set in Nigeria that will have you playing detective in one minute and have your heart pounding in the next, all in less than 250 pages, this is for you.