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The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander 

A story that hits so many emotions and offers a wealth of opportunities for discussion and further reading. 

Kofi Offin Mensah, a member of the Ashante people, is named after the river that runs next to his village in Upper Kwanta. Like others his age, he enjoys school and reading, has a best friend, Ebo, has begun to notice girls, and,  most of all, excels at swimming in his namesake river. He has a loving family, father, mother, grandfather, brothers, and sisters, whom he loves in return. He looks forward to his upcoming initiation into manhood ceremony with equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation; he’s heard stories. He has a nemesis in the village: his own cousin, who’s only a little older than himself, but with whom he has a long-standing rivalry. 

This year, his older brother, Kwasi, has been selected to represent their village in wrestling at the annual Kings Festival: a great honor. As Kwasi is a skilled fighter, Kofi and his friends are confident he will win it all for Upper Kwanta and bring home the winner’s prize. But when a terrible accident occurs during the match, life for everyone in Upper Kwanta is tragically affected. 

In The Door of No Return, author Kwame Alexander tells the heartbreaking story of Kofi, a boy on the threshold of adulthood, and his close-knit and loving family. Readers get to know this curious and charming boy and will connect with his adolescent thoughts, feelings, and desires for the future. Young readers will undoubtedly be drawn in and quickly relate to him. 

There is joy in the story as Kofi swims in the river and talks and learns from the older male members of his family: grandfather, father, and big brother, Kwasi. But tension arises quickly as he prepares to swim a race against his rival. But that tension is only a teaser for the trouble to come, something so unimaginable it will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned. 

The story is conveyed in verse which may be unfamiliar to some young readers. However, this format creates perfect bite-sized pieces that will, in the end, keep the reader on the edge of their seats yet give them a much-needed pause from the mounting tension before continuing. These natural stops may work well for reluctant readers and those looking for a meaningful story for reading aloud. 

Kofi’s story hits so many emotions and offers a wealth of material for discussion, examination, reflection, and further reading. Its gorgeous cover is sure to catch the eye of browsers as well. I recommend THE DOOR OF NO RETURN to middle-grade readers and older and those searching for an exciting opportunity for sharing and reading aloud. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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