Author: Tochi Onyebuchi
Released: January 21st
I received a copy of Riot Baby through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Fans of Tochi Onyebuchi have been talking about their latest novella for months, and with good reason. Riot Baby is one of those novellas that will cut to the quick and stick with your mind and heart. This is a passionate tale of family, loss, and human nature. One could argue that this novella is also one part dystopian portraiture of modern events.
Ella and Kev are siblings, and they both have something in common. Each of these children are gifted. Their time on this earth has been trying, both despite and in spite of their abilities. But that just makes their tale all the more powerful.
“It always feels like something’s rumbling whenever she gets the nosebleeds like the earth is gathering itself up under her, but whenever they stop, the nosebleeds, and she looks around, it’s like nobody else noticed a thing.”
Tochi Onyebuchi has done it again. Riot Baby was an intense – yet beautiful and powerful – read. This world created before our eyes is a troubled one, full of violence, riots, and unjust actions. There’s an intentional parallel being drawn here, and the impact of it took my breath away.
Ella and Kev may be siblings, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. But then again, their gifts and the world they were raised in were also quite different, so some of this was to be expected.
One thing is certain; while both of these siblings are very different, they both struggled in their own ways. Ella feared herself and her powers. She dealt with pain and loss – even when it hadn’t yet happened. Kev was fierce and determined, yet also struggling with loss in his own way. His pain was acute, and the cause for it was so much more human, in a way.
Their individual pain was palpable, increased ever more by the events that tied them directly into today’s time. There’s something jarring about that, while also being very powerful and beautiful.
Onyebuchi’s unflinching portrayal of all of the racism and violence in this world is something to be respected. This is not an ideal world presented. Instead, it is a world rooted in the past, with worrying implications and warnings about our future. It’s impossible to look away, and I for one am so very grateful to Onyebuchi for putting words to some of these events and emotions.
Having finished Riot Baby, I can now completely understand why so many people have been talking about it. And I honestly think that it’s a novella we’re going to keep talking about for years to come. Or at least, I hope that is the case.