I’ve read some great YA thrillers this year, but this book was really on a level all its own. It is original with phenomenal character development and a rich setting. I truly cannot recommend this book highly enough!
City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Since so much of this book is driven by Tina’s burning need to get revenge upon the man who killed her mother, I paired City of Saints & Thieves with this Vengeance Red Zinfandel.
*All wine recommendations are strictly for those of legal drinking age only.*
The Nitty Gritty
- Title: City of Saints & Thieves
- Author: Natalie C. Anderson
- Publisher: Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
- Pub Date: January 24, 2017
- Pages: 401
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
I absolutely loved this book. The story itself was enthralling, the characters were complex and wonderfully developed, and the setting is so vivid. It jumps right off the pages to envelope you.
Tina was a fantastic main character. She has a dark and fascinating backstory that you get to learn more and more about as the story progresses. Her motivations are clear and absolutely believable. She is tough as nails, having learned to transform her physical weaknesses into strengths that make her a vital component to local gang the Goondas. Despite the hard exterior that she’s constructed over the years, she’s a loyal and loving character. Definitely the type of character that you will be rooting for from page one.
There is also a fantastic cast of characters around Tina, from her sister, to her childhood friend Michael, to her fellow Goonda members. They’re all well-developed and intriguing, even when Anderson only mentions them very briefly.
I felt that the murder mystery elements of this book were beautifully done, partly because this story very authentically felt like a couple of teenagers trying to solve a murder. They’re admittedly brilliant and capable teenagers, but they very much felt like they’re actually the age they are supposed to be in this novel. I think that can be a hard thing to maintain in a murder mystery novel.
I also loved the pacing of the story. Each new discovery is timed perfectly so as to continuously pull the reader in and keep them guessing.
This is such a brilliant debut for Natalie C. Anderson. I’m so excited to see what she comes out with next, and I also cannot wait to watch City of Saints & Thieves when it hits the big screen!
There are so many great book covers coming out this year, but this is one of my favorites. I love the color scheme and the pattern, and the image of Tina is just exactly how I pictured her when reading the novel. It’s really quite stunning.
While there is a bit of a romance going on in this novel, but this is much more about Tina’s journey and the murder mystery elements of the plot. That does not at all detract from the story. In this story, it serves to demonstrate Tina’s comfortability in her own skin and her independence.
I was lucky enough to meet Natalie during the recent Penguin Teen Tour, and I absolutely loved the way she personalized her tagline in my book. I definitely laughed out loud when I read it.
Natalie C Anderson is an American writer and international development professional based in Geneva, Switzerland with her husband. You can also sometimes find her in the mountains of North Carolina or Nairobi, Kenya. She’s spent the last decade working NGOs and the UN on refugee issues around the world, mainly Africa.
Natalie has a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in International Studies, African Studies and Political Science, and received her MSc from the University of Oxford in Forced Migration.
Natalie was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer-in-Residence. She is represented by Faye Bender, of The Book Group.
Her debut YA novel, CITY OF SAINTS AND THIEVES will be published in January, 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Have you read City of Saints & Thieves yet? Have you read any other YA novels set in Africa? What are some of your favorite debut novels of 2017 so far?