Friday, September 23, 2022

Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting

Brown, Roseanne A. Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting
September 6th 2022 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Serwa wants nothing more than to take her initiation test to be a full fledged hunter of the adze, vampiric creatures from Ghanian folklore that really threaten our world. Her father was younger than she is now, but her parents try to protect her. When their home, despite its adinkra wards, is attacked by the adze, they discover that an evil witch, Boahinmaa, wants the Midnight Drum, and her parents are the keepers of it. They won't tell her anything about it, and shuttle her off to stay with her aunt Latricia and cousin Roxy in Rocky Gorge, Maryland while they take off to find Boahinmaa and prevent her from freeing Nana Bekoe, who is a obayifo (witch) who was prominent during the most recent magical war. Serwa has been homeschooled, so going to middle school wtih Roxie is difficult, especially with teachers like Mrs. Dean, an older white woman who calls her Sarah and is constantly performing microagressions that Serwa has to deal with. She's almost as bad as the fact that an adze that Serwa fears are at her new school. After a bad incident in home ec when she thinks there is an adze in another student's back pack and accidentally causes a food fight over it, Serwa sees one of the nicer teachers, Mr. Riley, act as though he HAS been attacked by one. He's overseeing an after school detention that sees Serwa, Roxie, and three other students, Eunju, Gavin, and Mateo, doing community service around the school as punishment for their involvement in the food fight. Serwa realizes that she needs their help, and also realizes that they are all fighting their own personal battles. Roxie's father has been deported to Ghana and is trying to return to the family, Eunju's parents are generous with money, but very uncaring, Mateo has a stutter, and Gavin was abused as a child but is happily living with two foster dads. They believe her, reluctantly, about the adze, and she teaches them to fight, using magic to bring Barbies to life as sparring partners at the abandoned Sweetieville Amusement Park. Serwa calls on the goddess Asaase Yaa for help, but she's busy being a "social influencer" and offers to help only if they can retrieve her sword that was stolen by Anansi in Asamando, the land of the dead. They manage to finish this perilous quest, but that isn't the end of their fighting. Back at school, they need to figure out who the adze in the building is, but even after they manage to take care of that matter, there are even bigger problems that they discover that include relevatory information about Serwa's heritage. Will Serwa be able to keep Rocky Gorge safe without the help of her parents?
Strengths: It was good to see a title that put a new spin on these vampires. There's lots of folklore and Ghananian culture included in Serwa's quest, which I enjoyed. I am an absolute sucker for Fairy Tale Forest type amusement parks, so Sweetieville was fantastic. The characters are all very distinct, which is hard to do when there is also a lot of action and adventure. There are a lot of funny lines ("Rocky Gorge looks like what would happen if Disneyland and a Hallmark greeting card had the world's most autumn-y baby."), and situations, like the iHop being a liminal space between worlds. This was an engaging fantasy book that fans of Chokshi's Aur Shah and Cervantes' Storm Runner series will love. 
Weaknesses: Since my students have a renewed interest in vampires,  I would have liked to have seen more information about and interactions with the vampires rather than the interactions with Ashley and Mrs. Dean, but I can certainly see why those were included. 
What I really think: I've had several students with the last name of Boateng over the years, since my school has had a decent sized population of students of Ghananian descent, so I'll have to buy this book! I do wish that there were some shorter fantasy novels from the Rick Riordan Presents series; many of my students are not fans of this genre, and are unlikely to pick up a 400 page book. If there were some culturally connected fantasy novels that came in at 200 pages, I think they would really enjoy getting into some new types of books. 

1 comment:

  1. This was an entertaining vampire story; I don't think I've seen too many of those.