Riot Baby
"Riot Baby bursts at the seams of story with so much fire, passion and power that in the end it turns what we call a narrative into something different altogether."—Marlon JamesRooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Riot Baby Details

TitleRiot Baby
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 21st, 2020
PublisherTor
Rating
GenreFantasy, Science Fiction, Fiction, Dystopia, Adult, Science Fiction Fantasy

Riot Baby Review

  • James Lafayette Tivendale
    January 1, 1970
    I received an uncorrected proof copy of Riot Baby in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Tochi Onyebuchi and Tor. Riot Baby begins in Compton, USA depicting topics that could have been straight out of an N.W.A song. Racism, police brutality, gang banging etc... This chapter is presented by a young lady Ella who is one of the two point of view perspectives. At the culmination of the chapter Ella's mother goes into labour in the midst of a brutal riot and gives birth to her little I received an uncorrected proof copy of Riot Baby in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Tochi Onyebuchi and Tor. Riot Baby begins in Compton, USA depicting topics that could have been straight out of an N.W.A song. Racism, police brutality, gang banging etc... This chapter is presented by a young lady Ella who is one of the two point of view perspectives. At the culmination of the chapter Ella's mother goes into labour in the midst of a brutal riot and gives birth to her little brother. Kev, the riot baby. As mentioned, the first of the two point of view perspectives is that of Ella. She has special powers which she refers to as the Thing. She can look at a person and can see visions of their past and future sufferings. She can Travel which means she can disappear to other places, can Shield to make herself invisible, can appear as an astral phantom, can destroy items with her mind... she can even make rats heads explode without looking at them. It is as if she is taking all the anger and despair that she witnesses and is building the emotions up to something that could be cataclysmic. Her views are presented in the third-person perspective. The second main player is Kev, the titular Riot Baby. His viewpoint is presented in the first-person. He's an intelligent young black individual who spends a lot of time reading and fixing computers. He's also street-wise and knows a simple bad decision can equate to death in the hood. His narrative arc is full of depth which is surprising for a tale this short. He ends up being incarcerated for little more than being a young black gentleman. His time in jail is horrendous featuring some notorious and harrowing scenes, it changes him completely, and it fucks up his mind. The only thing that keeps him sort of sane or focused are visits he receives from his sister that are "both mundane and supernatural."At 173 pages, this was an intense, occasionally challenging and utterly unique novella. It combines elements of science fiction, dystopian ideals, racism, supernatural powers, change, and oppression but it is ultimately about a close family and their love for each other. In these 173 pages the events that take place cover approximately 28 years. It goes from a nowadays Compton to a dystopian futuristic existence where emotions and choices are essentially taken away from black individuals. During this period Ella spends her whole time watching and drawing in the pain of reliving unjust deaths. I will admit that I didn't fully understand a few sections when watching historic events or walking on different plains whilst the characters' bodies were still alive in the real world. It also switches sporadically occasionally from past, current, future and even point of view perspectives. This isn't really a negative, I just had to concentrate deeply to fully appreciate the full tale and it's three-dimensional depth. For me, this was between 3-4 stars up until the final 10 pages which were phenomenal and pushes Riot Baby up to a solid 4-star read. Onyebuchi is a popular YA author but there is no denying that this novella, his first-time releasing adult fiction is extremely dark and graphic in its nature. Certain scenes were nail-biting in their intensity and other occasions were so brutal that if this was a film then they would be the look away from the screen moments. Riot Baby is a thrilling, intense, nail-biting read that transcends genre and has an ending of biblical proportions. Adult, often extreme but highly recommended.
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  • R.F. Kuang
    January 1, 1970
    damn
  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    3/1/20This book was definitely better the second time around! I think that if you aren't familiar with (black) history/culture in America you're going to have to work a little more in order to understand everything. Having done it, I would ay it was well worth the efoort and definitely would recommend reading it. My review will come out at the start of February.27/9/19A sincere thank you to tor.com for sending over a copy of this book!You can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | 3/1/20This book was definitely better the second time around! I think that if you aren't familiar with (black) history/culture in America you're going to have to work a little more in order to understand everything. Having done it, I would ay it was well worth the efoort and definitely would recommend reading it. My review will come out at the start of February.27/9/19A sincere thank you to tor.com for sending over a copy of this book!You can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
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  • Holly (The Grimdragon)
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Stars~"But I can't get enough of what's going on outside. My body warms with it, like a space heater in my bones. One of the cops reaches down and uncuffs the guys on the ground, and Havoc gets back up as the cops back away, shouting, "You see the address! Come back later, pussy!" And it's not this, but the growing crowd, some of them with cameras, that makes the cops shuffle away. And it feels like victory."Riot Baby is the adult debut science fiction novel by Tochi Onyebuchi. It follows 4.5 Stars~"But I can't get enough of what's going on outside. My body warms with it, like a space heater in my bones. One of the cops reaches down and uncuffs the guys on the ground, and Havoc gets back up as the cops back away, shouting, "You see the address! Come back later, pussy!" And it's not this, but the growing crowd, some of them with cameras, that makes the cops shuffle away. And it feels like victory."Riot Baby is the adult debut science fiction novel by Tochi Onyebuchi. It follows siblings Ella and Kev who have radical powers.Ella has a Thing. She can see things that no one else does. Images from the future. Clips of how people will look when they are older, their careers, even how they may die. She will often get a sense that something bad is going to happen. These powers cause Ella to become increasingly withdrawn, as the consequences of hearing so much hate and anger through the thoughts of others is an extreme burden for someone to deal with.Kev was born during the Los Angeles riots in 1992, hours after the officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted. The title "Riot Baby," is a reference to Kev's nickname. A technology wizard, Kev loves to read and work on computers. Determined, intelligent and ambitious, he becomes a victim of circumstance - that of being a young black man in America.The story navigates between future and present-day, highlighting the painful roots of racism embedded throughout American culture and history."The images spin into stories, so many stories.."I first learned of Riot Baby on Twitter while I watched a beautiful video of Onyebuchi seeing the cover for the first time. It went on my TBR immediately. Of course after learning what the book was actually going to be about, I was even more interested!Tochi Onyebuchi delivers a hard-hitting dystopian in a not-so-distant future that tackles incredibly important topics like racial aggression, injustice, unwarranted violence and oppression. It's impressive how much Onyebuchi covers within this short novella, including supernatural abilities within real-world realities, police brutality, a broken justice system and the black American experience over the years.Riot Baby is a difficult, but integral read. It's a powerfully emotional story that should be part of the contemporary high school curriculum. Truly.Even with so much hurt, there is hope.(Big thanks to Tor.com Publishing for sending me a copy!)**The quotes above were taken from an ARC & are subject to change upon publication**
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  • Kim Lockhart
    January 1, 1970
    I am reminded of Charles Blow's epiphany that finding your voice means facing the past. You have to find the source of your pain, that "fire shut up in your bones."Onyebuchi's powerful characters trace the cumulative effects of serial injustice and systemic racism. He delivers a visceral and compelling indictment of the intentionally evil as well as the willfully obtuse. And he injects all with the painful burning reminder that there is no redemption without blood, and no purification without I am reminded of Charles Blow's epiphany that finding your voice means facing the past. You have to find the source of your pain, that "fire shut up in your bones."Onyebuchi's powerful characters trace the cumulative effects of serial injustice and systemic racism. He delivers a visceral and compelling indictment of the intentionally evil as well as the willfully obtuse. And he injects all with the painful burning reminder that there is no redemption without blood, and no purification without fire.
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  • The Nerd Daily
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth MowbrayRiot Baby is the tale of siblings Ella and Kev who are gifted with tremendous powers. The book jumps back and forth across America, beginning on the West Coast where Kev is born amidst the 1992 Los Angeles riots, granting him the nickname “Riot Baby.” Although his sister is young, these riots and the atmosphere of the surrounding community are powerfully impactful for her.The narrative next resumes with Ella and Kev after their Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Beth MowbrayRiot Baby is the tale of siblings Ella and Kev who are gifted with tremendous powers. The book jumps back and forth across America, beginning on the West Coast where Kev is born amidst the 1992 Los Angeles riots, granting him the nickname “Riot Baby.” Although his sister is young, these riots and the atmosphere of the surrounding community are powerfully impactful for her.The narrative next resumes with Ella and Kev after their mother has moved them across the country to Harlem, where they face similar issues of discrimination, just in a different community. Kev attempts to balance the draw of the street life which has engaged so many of his peers with his innate interest in learning and his future goals. Gifted with visions of the future (which are not gifts at all, rather premonitions of the horrors to come), Ella becomes increasingly withdrawn and angry. Her powers begin to manifest in unexpected and dangerous ways, ways that scare even her family, culminating in a series of events that forever changes the course of both siblings’ lives.It is difficult to share too much more about the storyline without spoiling the twists and turns which lie within. Kev ultimately ends up incarcerated and is buoyed through this trying time by conversations with Ella during visiting hours as well as her magical appearances in his cell. Meanwhile, Ella faces her own struggles, absorbing the weight of so much hate and violence through her ability to hear the thoughts of others, to see the past and the apocalyptic future. Both siblings are also burdened with the fight for freedom, the conflict between rising above the hate and considering the action which may be necessary to fight the injustice.Onyebuchi packs a lot into this little book. Riot Baby directly confronts decades of police violence by building upon real life events like the well-known beating of Rodney King, as well as nodding to perhaps lesser known, but no less important, events such as the Watts Riots of 1960s Los Angeles and the shooting of Sean Bell in 2006. The use of magical realism has been a popular device in recent fiction that aims to tackle such difficult and important subjects, yet Onyebuchi approaches this in a way all his own. By weaving together history and fantasy, he adroitly demonstrates how racism has been, and continues to be, embedded in the culture of the United States. This technique works quite well to emphasise and sharpen his commentary, while also allowing a glimpse into a not-so-distant dystopian future. A future full of warnings, a sense of imposed control housed inside a beautifully misleading veneer, which will make your skin crawl.Onyebuchi is a truly skilled world-builder and his juxtaposition of the real and the fantastic, the present and the possible future, is impressive. In relatively few words, he creates such realistic images in the mind of the reader, immersing them in each scene. The narrative builds and builds, digging its claws in ever sharper, drawing the reader to the edge of their seat. The only drawback to this novella is that I wanted more! I could have easily inhaled a book twice as long, as I found myself wanting to know much more about the brave characters he created and the multiple worlds they inhabit.
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  • Tiffany Bookwormgram
    January 1, 1970
    Riot Baby5/5 starsHoly wow. This is 162 pages of gut punches. Combining realism with dystopian with science-fiction, Riot Baby follows two gifted siblings through the history of the black American experience. Somehow, in very few pages, Onyebuchi covers the vastness of structural racism in a way that you are present for. Taking on topics from the KKK to police brutality across generations. It’s a harsh and gut-wrenching look at the crime of being black in America. Somehow, he also let’s us see Riot Baby5/5 starsHoly wow. This is 162 pages of gut punches. Combining realism with dystopian with science-fiction, Riot Baby follows two gifted siblings through the history of the black American experience. Somehow, in very few pages, Onyebuchi covers the vastness of structural racism in a way that you are present for. Taking on topics from the KKK to police brutality across generations. It’s a harsh and gut-wrenching look at the crime of being black in America. Somehow, he also let’s us see it all through the eyes of two children, to make it even more striking. Ella’s gift to see the memories of everything/everyone she touches takes us through history in the eyes of a young black woman. We see her fear, her pain, her anger. This is not an easy or entertaining read. It’s raw and real and doesn’t pull any punches. I hope EVERYONE reads this.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A raw and heartbreaking story about growing up black, Onyebuchi infuses his tale with fantastical elements and gives us characters who are not willing to sit still.I went into Riot Baby with no expectations at all, and I think that’s the best way to approach this story. This short novella is a beautifully written, I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A raw and heartbreaking story about growing up black, Onyebuchi infuses his tale with fantastical elements and gives us characters who are not willing to sit still.I went into Riot Baby with no expectations at all, and I think that’s the best way to approach this story. This short novella is a beautifully written, sucker-punch of a tale about the black experience in America, focusing on a brother and sister with unique powers. The book is hard to classify, because there are elements of both science fiction (parts of the story take place in a futuristic United States where drones patrol the skies and armored police roam the streets) and fantasy (Ella is able to see the future and travel through time). But the underlying theme is the persecution of black people and how nothing much has changed over the years.Ella lives with her pregnant mother in South Central LA, where life in the early 1990s is fraught with sudden violence: gangbangers, drug dealers and police brutality are simply a part of Ella's life. Even at a young age, Ella has the strange ability to see the future (she knows that her mama’s friend’s new baby will be shot and killed in a drive-by shooting when he’s a teenager) and she can also move objects with her mind. Ella can’t control her abilities, though, and she soon realizes that she’s a danger to the people she loves. Ella’s world implodes one day when riots break out in Los Angeles, after the acquittal of the police officers who severely beat Rodney King. Just as the riots begin, Ella’s mother gives birth to Kev, the “riot baby” of the title.Over the next several decades, Ella and Kev try to navigate the harsh world they’ve been born into, searching for meaning in a world filled with injustices. Ella leaves home when she realizes she has her own journey to undertake, but she continues to check in on her brother over the years. As Ella flits from place to place, through time and space, her anger grows until it can barely be contained.I clearly remember the Rodney King riots. From the shocking video footage of King being beaten by police officers, to the stunning outcome of the trial, to the riots themselves, I remember how fast the city erupted into violence. I was working in Pasadena at the time, miles away from South Central L.A., but we were told to go home for the day. Everyone was shocked and scared. If white police officers could get away with such brutality, then what chance did any black person have in this city? Onyebuchi uses this historic event as a springboard for the rest of his story, and I thought it was brilliantly done.I loved the way the author divided up his story into four sections, following Ella and Kev throughout childhood and into young adulthood. The first section takes place in South Central L.A. during the Rodney King trials in 1992 and the ensuing riots. In the second section, the family moves to Harlem in New York City and Kev experiences police brutality personally for the first time. When Kev is arrested for theft, the story moves to a remote prison called Rikers where he’s abused by guards and inmates as well. And finally, on parole, Kev is right back where it all started, in a neighborhood in Los Angeles called Watts. This structure shows Kev bouncing from place to place but never really going anywhere. Even when he’s finally granted parole, he finds himself in another type of prison, the kind without bars, but a prison nonetheless.The story is told from dual points of view and jumps between Ella and Kev. At times they are together, but when Ella leaves home one day, Kev has to figure out how to survive without her. Ella’s journey is very strange, and I have to admit I didn’t enjoy it as much as Kev’s. She can disappear from a place in the blink of an eye and travel to points all over the world. Her travels are of the metaphysical kind, almost like astral projection. She appears to Kev over the years, sometimes in his dreams and sometimes as a ghostly presence, but she’s always trying to keep tabs on him. Kev, on the other hand, lives a life full fear, where random violence is an every day occurrence, and because of his social status, he has very little chance of escape. What made this story bearable was Kev’s tenacity and Ella’s fierce anger and desire to change the world. Riot Baby can be tough to read. Ella has the ability to come and go as she pleases, but Kev is stuck in his awful life with barely a glimmer of hope. At times the dreamy quality of Ella’s journey pulled me out of the immediacy of Kev’s predicament, but both stories come together at the end. Readers seeking clear answers and solutions may be frustrated, but if you go into this story for the emotional experience, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Highly recommended.Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Trigger warnings: Suicide attempt, drug use, racial slurs, violenceThis review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy
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  • Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
    January 1, 1970
    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight 4.5* Riot Babyis powerful, raw, heartbreaking, and an absolute must read. I am going to try to give as little away as possible for two reasons: One, I think you need to read it for yourself; and two, I genuinely don't think I could do an explanation justice. The story primarily centers around siblings Ella and Kev, and their experiences as young black Americans. At pretty much every turn You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight 4.5* Riot Baby is powerful, raw, heartbreaking, and an absolute must read. I am going to try to give as little away as possible for two reasons: One, I think you need to read it for yourself; and two, I genuinely don't think I could do an explanation justice. The story primarily centers around siblings Ella and Kev, and their experiences as young black Americans. At pretty much every turn in their lives, their trajectories become shaped by the brutal and racist treatment of black people, often by police and others in power positions.You will be filled with rage as you read this book. Not only for our main characters, but because it's true. While Kev and Ella are fictional, the riots are not. The experiences of young black people in this country are not.  The author makes the reader care about not only the main characters, but the manages to elicit strong feelings for even the most minor, even nameless characters. And every single thing about this story made me think about the real human beings subjected to these atrocities (and more) every day. Bottom Line: In addition to the importance and emotional pull of Riot Baby, it's also just a damn good story. So do yourself a favor and grab it asap.
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  • Christine Sandquist (eriophora)
    January 1, 1970
    This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. I am the locusts and the frogs and the rivers of blood. I’m here now. My reaction on finishing Riot Baby can be summed up with two simple words: Holy shit. This is a novella that I will have to reread at some point. Riot Baby is a humbling, visceral collage of two lives and the system that exists to crush them at every turn. It is a battle cry, a scream, and a sob for the black community. When people talk about This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. I am the locusts and the frogs and the rivers of blood. I’m here now. My reaction on finishing Riot Baby can be summed up with two simple words: Holy shit. This is a novella that I will have to reread at some point. Riot Baby is a humbling, visceral collage of two lives and the system that exists to crush them at every turn. It is a battle cry, a scream, and a sob for the black community. When people talk about #OwnVoices, this is what they mean.  Everything about this novella clicked for me. It worked, beautifully, painfully. Some novellas try to compress a larger story into something that feels incomplete, leaving the reader dissatisfied and wanting more. Onyebuchi, however, sidesteps that with liberal use of time skips and a vignette format. Each scene is, to some degree, self-contained. To a reader, the end result is that it feels a bit like a living, breathing photo album. It’s a piece of ergodic literature, requiring that the reader actively participate and put together the puzzle pieces, filling in the blanks on their own. The structure is intentional and creative, allowing for a much larger story to be set into a smaller number of pages.  The prose, too, helped keep things concise and tidy. Each word, each phrase, packs meaning upon meaning into it. The use of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) is particularly effective in creating the overall atmosphere and culture depicted. I’m generally very sensitive to vernacular, jargon, or slang that is shoe-horned in as a cheap way of creating a setting, and that was NOT the case here at all. It felt natural, and slotted in beautifully within the overall writing. The setting informed the way of speaking, rather than the way of speaking being used to create a setting. AAVE was used because that's how the characters speak. Brooklyn, New York. An underpaid single mother with two kids: Ella, and Kevin. She does everything she can to keep them together, but she only has so much to give - especially when Ella begins to grow into something that neither of them can understand. Ella’s Thing, a magic born of anger and fear, gives her control over the world around her. Her brother, Kevin, is smart, bright, on track to stay in school and have a genuine future … but when Ella can’t control her Thing and must leave the family, this pushes everything off track for Kev. Or, perhaps, everything already was off track - it’s not right that these two kids know that they must hide in the interior closets when cats are gangbangin’ out on their street. It’s not right at these two kids know so many people who have been killed or hurt or assaulted. That, however, is their reality - and their anger at that reality is what Onyebuchi aims to explore in this shattered, fragmented narrative.  I want to tell Mama about how things were getting better after Ella’s last attack, how I’ve been studying on the side and maybe getting closer to finding out how Ella could do the things she could do and that I’m gonna keep doing that once I get to college and get my degree. I want to tell Mama that we’re healing, that we’re fixing what we can fix and that nothing’s been broken beyond repair and that the only way we can keep whatever’s eating Ella’s insides from devouring her is to stay together. But more sobs come, and I try to get my brain to move toward a solution, figure out what I can build to get her back, to get at whatever’s hurting her, but I can’t think of nothing. Kev is the titular Riot Baby, as their mother went into labor during the 1992 riots in LA. When she was rushed to the hospital, it was a complicated birth - just like Ella’s. Onyebuchi takes every scene and explores the social context behind it, creating a much larger narrative than seems possible in such a short novella - in this case, we see the ambivalence of the doctors and the way her pain isn’t taken seriously. It doesn’t matter to them if she lives, dies, or if her child is born healthy. All that matters to them is that she inconvenience them as little as possible, and they fail to even read her chart before walking into her room. That is the treatment that every single scene in this novella gets, and each one is just as much of a gut-punch as the one before it. You are present for their pain, and their anger becomes yours as a reader.  Ella understands all of that. She is growing, constantly, and lives in the minds of those around her. Where Mama was opaque and mysterious to Kev, she’s an open window to Ella. She hates that they’ve moved to Harlem, and to an extent, she hates Mama for having brought them there. She has so, so much anger, and it’s overflowing - she takes it out  on those around her. She’s been hurt, and she doesn’t know how not to cause hurt any more herself. Her Mama tries to reassure her, telling her that God will help her… but Ella can’t have faith in a God who lets her family be shot at every day, who allows school shootings and church shootings and violence at every turn.  “It’s so bad here,” she whimpers. “Oh, baby.” A look of helplessness flits across Mama’s face. Desperation, then it passes, and Ella already knows it’s because Mama knows she can’t let Ella see her hopeless, and Ella hates that she has to know that. “Baby, that’s just the Devil at work. But you know there’s more out there than just the Devil.”  “But everything’s the Devil!”  “The Devil is busy here.” Mama has taken to smoothing out Ella’s outfit, running her hand down her sleeves. “The gangs, the drugs, all the evil that men do to each other here. Sometimes even the police. That’s the Devil. But you just gotta pray, all right, Ella?” Time skip. Kev is an adult now, hanging out with the cats who are gangbangin’ in Harlem. He’s at the wrong place, the wrong time, and he ends up in Riker’s awaiting trial. He waits for trial, and waits for trial, and his trial is postponed, and the judge needs more time to prepare, and he stays there becoming more and more violent and more and more out of touch with the outside world for eight years. He never sees a judge. Ella visits him, both in person and using her Thing, but that just makes Ella angrier. The dystopian, science fiction elements of the book begin to slowly creepy in, as the reader begins to get an inkling of the way the police state works in this alternate future.  This is the other side of what solitary did to him. The agitation, the running straight into painful memories rather than barricading himself against them. Whatever destructive impulses propelled Kev that night of the attempted armed robbery now augmented by what twenty-three hours in a cell alone for six months will do to a man. Kev looks as though he is staring at the sun, intent on blindness. Ella manages to make it onto the Rikers bus heading back into Queens before crying. Ella begins to view her Thing less as a gift, less as a curse, and more as a responsibility. She will not, cannot, stand by as these injustices continue to take place around her. And as she flits across the world, it occurs to that maybe she’s the one the world has been waiting for. Maybe it’s up to her to fix things . Her Mama is dying, and the world is dying, and everything is wrong - but perhaps she is the one who is right.  Six shots into the back of a man fleeing arrest on a child support warrant, or two shots ringing out and cops standing over the prone bleeding body of a young man in the midst of protests commemorating the anniversary of another boy killed by a cop. After each one, Ella had Traveled. Straight to the site of the killing, and she’d touched the ground, breathed in the air, and sucked that history deep into her body. Inhaled the violence of the previous hours. Sometimes it felt pornographic. To go to that cul de sac in McKinley, Texas, where black kids younger than her sat on the ground, handcuffed, while their white neighbors jeered and one cop grabbed a girl in a bathing suit by the arm and hurled her to the ground, then dug his knee into her back while she wailed for her mother. She’d returned from every trip with her head in her hands. What if I’m the answer? she had asked herself. What if I’m the one we’ve been praying for? And, maybe, she is. Recommended for fans of:The Deep by River Solomon and The ClippingThe Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
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  • USOM
    January 1, 1970
    Tochi's prose shines in Riot Baby. There's subtle word placements and these phrases roll of your tongue in a way that's both glittering and sharp. The world of Riot Baby is unlike anything I've ever read. Faced with the desperation, the violence, and turning to hope, but is it enough? It's a story grounded in racism, police brutality, and the spark that ignites the tinder. Throughout Riot Baby we read about cycles of violence and racism. The scripts we are trapped in like hamsters in a wheel Tochi's prose shines in Riot Baby. There's subtle word placements and these phrases roll of your tongue in a way that's both glittering and sharp. The world of Riot Baby is unlike anything I've ever read. Faced with the desperation, the violence, and turning to hope, but is it enough? It's a story grounded in racism, police brutality, and the spark that ignites the tinder. Throughout Riot Baby we read about cycles of violence and racism. The scripts we are trapped in like hamsters in a wheel playing at words we don't understand and cast in roles we cannot escape.full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...
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  • Katy
    January 1, 1970
    This is a powerful gut-punch of a science fiction novella. Granted, I struggled to understand how exactly Ella’s powers worked, but I’m still giving it 5 stars because it’s such an electric adult debut from Onyebuchi. I have been so impressed with his worldbuilding in YA novels and was thrilled to see him finally write adult fiction. More, please!
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  • Michael Hicks
    January 1, 1970
    My review of RIOT BABY can be found at High Fever Books.Riot Baby was a book that I immediately fell in love with and only felt more rewarded by as its pages went on. By the end of the first chapter, I was Googling Tochi Onyebuchi to find out what else he’d written, adding his books to my wishlist for future purchases and making sure his name stuck in my mind. Halfway through chapter three, I was back to Googling the author, wanting to read the various interviews he’s been giving to help My review of RIOT BABY can be found at High Fever Books.Riot Baby was a book that I immediately fell in love with and only felt more rewarded by as its pages went on. By the end of the first chapter, I was Googling Tochi Onyebuchi to find out what else he’d written, adding his books to my wishlist for future purchases and making sure his name stuck in my mind. Halfway through chapter three, I was back to Googling the author, wanting to read the various interviews he’s been giving to help publicize this Tor release and to learn more about him. By the end of Riot Baby, I felt both angry and hopeful, and convinced I’d just found a new favorite author and an incredible new book to gush over and recommend to everybody.What makes Onyebuchi’s latest so amazing is its very particular viewpoint and its examination — and condemnation — of modern day America. This is a dystopian novel, centered largely around the present day, and with only some brief detours into a near-future, as seen through the eyes of young black siblings. Kevin was born in 1992 just as Los Angeles was being consumed by riots following the non-guilty verdict awarded to the police officers following the brutal beating of Rodney King. His older sister, Ella, is gifted with unnatural powers that can make her either a savior or a horror, or perhaps both simultaneously. In an interview with Nerd Daily, Onyebuchi credits the birth of this book with his inability to find a Magneto Was Right t-shirt, and that’s as succinct an elevator pitch as this book needs! Riot Baby is grounded very much in the black experience in America, with its major touchstones being the violent, incendiary events that highlight the present-day police state African Americans live in. From the LA Riots to the police massacre of Sean Bell, Onyebuchi has crafted a violent, dangerous tale where any missteps or incursions by Otherness are met with an outsized, excessive use of force and bloody assault as response, in an attempt to not just quell but destroy the black community.It’s hard to argue against Onyebuchi’s viewpoint, and it highlights a very real struggle in black America, one rife with systemic institutionalized racism, an America where blacks are killed at disproportionately higher rates by police, particularly if unarmed, for various crimes like reading a book in their car, or for changing a flat tire, or for living in their own apartment, or for talking on a cell phone in their back yard, or for being disabled, or, or, or, or, or, or…. The list goes on and on, highlighting the concept of Two Americas in articulate, intelligent, and depressingly real detail.Some will no doubt ignore Riot Baby for being “too political,” which is often code for “too real” or “too liberal” or “too progressive,” and they’ll be doing themselves a real disservice. Yes, Riot Baby is real, despite Ella’s powers and despite Onyebuchi’s much too-real near-future utilization of drone and bioinformatics and algorithmically-driven technology by police forces to maintain the status quo of oppressive inequality and help keep people afraid. Too political? Too real? Too damn right it is! And, frankly, when it comes to books like this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Riot Baby is righteously angry and necessary reading. It’s also the first real Must Have title of 2020, and an early contender for best of the year in my mind. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go Google Tochi Onyebuchi again and see if his next book has a release date yet.
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  • Lalaa #ThisBlackGirlReads
    January 1, 1970
    I approached Riot Baby with no expectations at all, just a desire to see how Onyebuchi would tell the story of loving siblings forced to live in an unforgiving world of racial divide and injustice.I don’t really know how to classify the novel but I can say that there are elements of fantasy, science fiction and the underlining theme that brings it all together is the persecution of African Americans and the desire for change that does not come. Unfortunately, this sounds familiar. When the story I approached Riot Baby with no expectations at all, just a desire to see how Onyebuchi would tell the story of loving siblings forced to live in an unforgiving world of racial divide and injustice.I don’t really know how to classify the novel but I can say that there are elements of fantasy, science fiction and the underlining theme that brings it all together is the persecution of African Americans and the desire for change that does not come. Unfortunately, this sounds familiar. When the story begins we’re introduced to little Ella who is taken care of by her grandmother and her very pregnant mother. From the very beginning, we learn that Ella is special, she has a ‘Thing’ as they call it. She frequently gets nose bleeds that are accompanied by visions of the future and the people around her. Also during this time, the unrest began in South Central LA after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the LAPD for the usage of excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King. Shockwaves were felt across the country and even in Toronto, Canada where a few hundred Canadians marched in solidarity with King but also to protest police brutality in the city, historically known as the Yonge Street Uprising. The streets of LA turned into mayhem and during the riots Ella’s mom goes into labour and brother Kev is born, thus known as the “Riot Baby.”It’s important to note that traditionally African names often have unique stories behind them. From the day or time a baby is born to the circumstances surrounding the birth, several factors influence the names. And although this is not his real name I have to wonder by people calling him this, did that put a bad omen over his life and the direction it went. Just a thought. But if nothing else I think this is one of the most beautifully brilliant display of foreshadowing I’ve read in a long time, probably since, the green light in ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Shortly after this, the family moves to Harlem and over the next few years Ella and Kev attempt to navigate their world and the injustices that surround them. Ella’s Thing begins to get stronger and in an attempt to protect her, her mom puts rules on how and when she can use it. As her powers grow Ella leaves home in order to follow her own path but continues to check on her brother. In a turn of events, Kev ends up in jail at the infamous Rikers island where he’s abused by guards and inmates, and Ella visits him both physically and with her powers.The entire story is told through both Kev’s and Ella’s points of view, and while they are brother and sister they have two very different paths and different realities. While Ella’s journey is one of physical freedom and fierce anger to change the world, Kev, on the other hand, is held down by shackles and even when he is on parole he’s free but not really. ‘When people joke and call me Riot Baby for being born when I was, t ain’t with any kind of affection, but something more complicated,” As Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1966, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”What made the story absolutely brilliant for me is that it told the essential story of the black man and black woman in America and how the systems of oppression break both the man and the woman in different ways. While Ella is free, she isn’t truly, she lives with anger and the need to still help and protect her brother who is in bondage. While Kev is just broken by the system. Although in the beginning of the book we see that he is a good student and a good boy that stays out of trouble, still he is thrown into a cage, demoralized and abused by the system, forced to live in fear. There’s a lot of trauma, police brutality, injustice and racism in this book, but it is beautifully written and handled. Although at moments I burned with anger and shook my head in complete disgust this book is a must-read. The words and characters stayed with me well after the last page.
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  • Ruthsic
    January 1, 1970
    Warnings: police brutality, gun violence, institutionalized racism, mention of suicide and attempted suicide, mention of physical and sexual assault, graphic recounting of violent incidents, childbirth scene, mention of PTSDRep: both main characters are Black; Kev was incarcerated and his PoV deals with incarceration and the trauma from itRiot Baby was a mixed bag for me - emotionally, it was a bulls-eye, with a very clear view on what it wanted to say and what it wanted to evoke, but in a Warnings: police brutality, gun violence, institutionalized racism, mention of suicide and attempted suicide, mention of physical and sexual assault, graphic recounting of violent incidents, childbirth scene, mention of PTSDRep: both main characters are Black; Kev was incarcerated and his PoV deals with incarceration and the trauma from itRiot Baby was a mixed bag for me - emotionally, it was a bulls-eye, with a very clear view on what it wanted to say and what it wanted to evoke, but in a narrative sense, it was confusing. It is about two siblings - Kev and Ella, and takes place from a little before Kev's birth to his present, and it is not until two-thirds of the book that you realize that part of it has futuristic elements. Anyway, back to the beginning - we meet Ella, who is gifted with her Thing, which includes everything from telekinesis, reading pasts and futures, reading thoughts, astral projection, traveling and shielding, and Kev, who is her younger brother, and doesn't show signs of powers like hers. Seeing their story, in third person for Ella and first person for Kev, we see them growing up in a violent neighborhood in a country that doesn't care for their lives, and in Ella's case her anger and her uncontrolled powers are a dangerous mix that Kev tries to steer clear of. Fast forward a few years, he is in prison and she visits him, while also doing her Thing and working on it. Fast forward some more years, and even after Kev's on parole, he realizes that the outside is not very different from the inside and is just a variation on it. Ella, meanwhile, has been gathering her anger to sharpen it to a purpose. The thing about the writing is that the sentences are sometimes winding and difficult to read (in a reading comprehension way, not content matter), scenes are all disjointed and without much narrative flow. Suddenly you are propelled who knows how much time further, and you have to discern from the clues how much time has passed and how they got there. I also wish the relationship between them was explored a bit more, as Ella's reminding Kev towards the end, when he wished to forget seemed like a complicated scene that needed more in it. However, the book is not as much about the characters or the details of the sci-fi elements, as much as it is about rage gathering in Ella over centuries of violence being meted out, as she can see every incident and know what exactly happened. It recalls some key incidents and Black people who were killed by police brutality, and also talks about how Black women are treated by the medical system, how danger to them is ignored. The story works through Kev and Ella than being about them, and recalls injustice and discrimination, both past and present, and how in the guise of betterment, different types of cages are still being constructed around Black people. Slavery ends but another kind of indenture begins in the form of incarceration; incarceration is reduced, but another form of indenture begins in the form of Sponsored communities. The book is very good at getting its point across in a novella length, that explores so much of the past and present of American history through a Black lens. While a bit difficult to read through, Riot Baby makes a stunning case for a revolution. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from TOR, via Netgalley.
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  • Bethany
    January 1, 1970
    This adult debut may be a novella, but it certainly packs a punch. Bursting with passion, anger, and stunning prose, this is the speculative fiction of resistance. Thematically, Riot Baby is about racism, police brutality, incarceration, and power. This is a must read, and perhaps the first spec fic story I have read with significant portions taking place inside of prison. It is gut-wrenching and necessary.Ella and Kev are brother and sister and both have unusual abilities. They are also Black This adult debut may be a novella, but it certainly packs a punch. Bursting with passion, anger, and stunning prose, this is the speculative fiction of resistance. Thematically, Riot Baby is about racism, police brutality, incarceration, and power. This is a must read, and perhaps the first spec fic story I have read with significant portions taking place inside of prison. It is gut-wrenching and necessary.Ella and Kev are brother and sister and both have unusual abilities. They are also Black and experience trauma and destruction due to structural racism from the time they are small children. In fact, Kev is born in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots and that violence follows him into the rest of his life. This novella explores different kinds of power and oppression, including gendered racism such as the unequal treatment of Black women giving birth in hospitals. It is heavy, but important to read. There are also some near-future speculative elements involving a heavily policed state integrating supposedly race-neutral technology with corporate involvement and how that could go very wrong. While it is difficult to read at times, I wholeheartedly recommend this one if you are able to read it. I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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  • Ella
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Beverly who shared this great interview with the LFPC group. Well worth a read, and I sure hope my library has more copies coming in. The list is very very long already.https://www.npr.org/2020/01/26/798237...This is fabulous and terrifying. Started with a library book and realized very quickly as I reread the opening chapter aloud to my friend that I was going to want to share this, so I bought a copy. Gorgeously written but not at all pretentious. Reminded me at times of Victor Thanks to Beverly who shared this great interview with the LFPC group. Well worth a read, and I sure hope my library has more copies coming in. The list is very very long already.https://www.npr.org/2020/01/26/798237...This is fabulous and terrifying. Started with a library book and realized very quickly as I reread the opening chapter aloud to my friend that I was going to want to share this, so I bought a copy. Gorgeously written but not at all pretentious. Reminded me at times of Victor LaValle (but only in a very weird way.) Speculative writing keeps getting better and I'm up for that. Also - a character named Ella who has something very special about her -- might appear easy for me to like that, but actually I seem to be harder on fictional Ellas than other names. More thoughts when I get time - which will hopefully be soon.
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  • Jocelyn
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come soon!
  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    wow.
  • J.A. Ironside
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by Tor.com via NetGalleyI really, really liked this novella. The prose was gorgeous, the story was immersive, the imagery was brutal, beautiful and compelling. Considering that only 174 pages are devoted to the complicated themes tangled together in this short gem, it's astounding how much the author has crammed in without it ever feeling muddled or crowded.The story follows Ella, who, as a little girl, discovers she has paranormal abilities. These take the form of a type of ARC provided by Tor.com via NetGalleyI really, really liked this novella. The prose was gorgeous, the story was immersive, the imagery was brutal, beautiful and compelling. Considering that only 174 pages are devoted to the complicated themes tangled together in this short gem, it's astounding how much the author has crammed in without it ever feeling muddled or crowded.The story follows Ella, who, as a little girl, discovers she has paranormal abilities. These take the form of a type of clairvoyance but ripen to terrifying displays of telekinesis, teleportation, pyrokenesis etc during the course of the story. Kev is Ella's little brother, born during the riots in 1992 which followed the acquittal of Rodney King's murderers. The American system - both legal and social - fails both children and their mother (and many many other poc) leading to a tale which twists back on itself, tracking over oppressed past and dystopian future. I don't want to include spoilers but this dual pov, non linear, time skip novella was nevertheless still easy to follow. It felt like being handed pieces of a jigsaw and asked if you dared to put them together. Because this book is about rage born of injustice. It's about racism, both generational and current, and potentially future.Understandably, it reflects the American experience of black men and women, drawing on American history. (So while certain aspects will no doubt resonate, this is not representative of racism as a whole on a global scale.) It deals also with poverty - again from a uniquely American perspective. I have to admit, as a UK person (and the UK does have issues with poverty and crime, we are far from perfect) the sort of decisions that (for example) lead a stabbed man to walk to hospital instead of calling an ambulance are bewildering. I was horrified by the US healthcare system all over again, and tbh that's an issue I trip over at least once a week. Similarly, US gun laws do not make any kind or sane or logical sense to your cousins across the pond. This is not a case of 'we're better than you' btw - this is a genuine expression of utter bafflement because while we do have some gun crime, it's nothing compared to the US and we have no frame of reference for it. However, despite lack of experiences that gel in certain areas, it's easy to see how these things pile up and pile up, exacerbating each other and causing the very system that fails the MCs. It's a grim picture and it's a tribute to the skill of the author that he has created a narrative so compelling that you just can't put the book down, even when faced with the scale of the problem. I really enjoyed the sci-fi element; I was rooting for both siblings; and I took a certain amount of enjoyment in the rage as well as finding something transformative and hopeful in it too. I would say the author accomplished what he intended here in terms of making the reader feel. The last 10% of the novella didn't really work for me. Possibly more space would have helped. It felt to me that having followed a logical narrative arc for both Ella and Kev, that Kev got short changed at the end there. That said, this was a brilliant novella and I highly recommend it.
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  • Ash | Wild Heart Reads
    January 1, 1970
    Riot Baby is an intense and wonderfully written novella that draws you straight in. Ella and Kev are both magnetic leads. Ella in particular with her fury really captivated me. For a novella, Riot Baby felt so vast. Sometimes with novellas, even when I love them, there's a part of me that wants more - but with Riot Baby it felt like there was so much more than 170 pages worth of story. The sci-fi/magic element added an extra element to the story that I just loved.There were times where I had to Riot Baby is an intense and wonderfully written novella that draws you straight in. Ella and Kev are both magnetic leads. Ella in particular with her fury really captivated me. For a novella, Riot Baby felt so vast. Sometimes with novellas, even when I love them, there's a part of me that wants more - but with Riot Baby it felt like there was so much more than 170 pages worth of story. The sci-fi/magic element added an extra element to the story that I just loved. There were times where I had to wrap my head around the time skips and flashes into past memories as well as how Kev and Ella's abilities worked but other than that Riot Baby is a powerful and emotive read that I definitely recommend you put on your tbr piles. I am the locusts and the frogs and the rivers of blood. I am here now. *I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own*This review and more can be found at https://wildheartreads.wordpress.com/
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to the publisher and author Tochi Onyebuchi for providing me an ARC in exchange for my open and honest review. Onyebuchi creates a dystopia portrait of modern American in Riot Baby. Kev, one of the two protagonists in Riot Baby, is born to a single mom in 1992 Los Angeles during the height of the Rodney King riots, hence the name Riot Baby. Kev was born into a time that explodes with violence in his childhood violence follows him, and as an adult, Kev is incarcerated at Rikers for Thank you to the publisher and author Tochi Onyebuchi for providing me an ARC in exchange for my open and honest review. Onyebuchi creates a dystopia portrait of modern American in Riot Baby. Kev, one of the two protagonists in Riot Baby, is born to a single mom in 1992 Los Angeles during the height of the Rodney King riots, hence the name Riot Baby. Kev was born into a time that explodes with violence in his childhood violence follows him, and as an adult, Kev is incarcerated at Rikers for eight years. Again his life swirls with anger and violence. The ironic and well-done part of Kev's character is that even though he was born, lived, and survived through significant violence, Kev himself, does not come off as a violent person. He is a person who reacts to violence and protects himself. The other major character and protagonist of the story is Ella, Kev's older sister as much as Kev is mired in violence and its effects, Ella is mired in her power. She sees much more than the surface of events. She can touch the very soil of the land after some event or act of violence and feel the pain and emotions of those affected. There is a reason why she has this power, isn't there? While Kev is in prison, Ella visits him both physically and psychically. They do not lose touch and are very close even though Kev is incarcerated. One of the most impactful parts of this story is the dichotomy that Onyebuchi writes events with. On one side, both Kev and Ella are very gifted and powerful; they have supernatural abilities. This could have been the main focus of the story, but it isn't. On the other side, racism and violence run rampant and have shaped their worlds in dystopias. These abilities do not save them from the vagaries of life. While each of the sides of this story is important, their powers and society in general, they are instead written to help develop the other. In lesser hands, this story would have been challenging to make it through. It is dark and introspective, full of moments of pain and is unflinching from detailing the misery humans can rain down on others. However, in Onyebuchi's hands, this story has a vein of hope and ends on a note of possibility for the future. I think it will be a book that people will be talking about in the coming year and is worth a reader's time. Riot Baby is speculative fiction at its finest. If you would like to read more of my reviews, please visit my site at www.beforewegoblog.com
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  • Jonathan Strahan
    January 1, 1970
    The first book I've finished in 2020. A short, vital angry SF novel about a young girl with powers and her brother, told through a series of riots, injustices, and imprisonments. Onyebuchi can write and Riot Baby is powerful stuff. I could quibble about one section, but well worth reading.
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  • mina reads™️
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Tor Publishing for this arc in exchange for an honest review
  • Bee ☆
    January 1, 1970
    ・ 。゚: *. .* :゚. Synopsis:Ever since Ella was young she’s had the ability to see things others couldn’t, her neighbor’s future, a stranger’s death, and bad things that keep coming. When her brother Kevin is born the day of a riot Ella can’t help but worry that something bad will happen when they grow up.Fast forward to Ella and Kev all grown up, Kevin is arrested for being black and through visits at the jail and visits using her power Ella will have to decide if she’ll use her ability to create ─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───Synopsis:Ever since Ella was young she’s had the ability to see things others couldn’t, her neighbor’s future, a stranger’s death, and bad things that keep coming. When her brother Kevin is born the day of a riot Ella can’t help but worry that something bad will happen when they grow up.Fast forward to Ella and Kev all grown up, Kevin is arrested for being black and through visits at the jail and visits using her power Ella will have to decide if she’ll use her ability to create a change or to create a revolution.─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───My Thoughts:I was so grateful to receive a physical copy of this book from Sourcebooks, and while I was hesitant going in that it would be a story about the black experience involving the usual trauma storyline, it was a pleasant surprise. As a black reader it’s hard to find books that really show the black experience without beating the trauma into you and/or completely missing the mark and sanitizing it for the reader’s gaze. This book did none of that, Onyebuchi wrote such a captivating story in these 200 pages that it was hard to put down. Seeing a genuine story written from the POV of two black kids that have grown up in America and that have experienced things people shouldn’t have to was refreshing. It was unapologetically black and it never wavered with delivering the truth straight to your doorstep whether you wanted it or not, opening up the story with Ella’s experiences before a Kevin was born was a perfect way to set up the story. The concept of Kevin being a Riot Baby and Ella having her powers to see into the future made for an intense sibling and family connection, the mother was the epitome of a black mom; selfless, fierce, beautiful and no matter how dangerous Ella became or how dangerous the area they lived in became she always did the best she could to protect the two. I can’t stress enough how important this book is for diversity and an authentic POV into Black Lives.─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───Wrap Up:If you want a beautifully written and powerful novel about the Black American experience then pick this book up, it was heart-wrenching, heart-racing and completely unforgettable. If I may be so bold to say it was a fantastic addition to the BLM Movement. Definitely a Book to beat this year!─── ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚. ───
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  • Toya
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars rounded up!Coming in at under 175 pages, Riot Baby is a harrowing and visceral account of what it’s like growing up black in America. I can’t begin to explain the amount of rage, pain, and injustice that is portrayed in this book. This story follows siblings: Ella and Kev who are both gifted with incredible powers. Ella is able to walk through people’s memories as well as see glimpses of the future. Kev was born in 1992 amid the Los Angeles riots hence his nickname “Riot Baby”. Their 4.5 stars rounded up!Coming in at under 175 pages, Riot Baby is a harrowing and visceral account of what it’s like growing up black in America. I can’t begin to explain the amount of rage, pain, and injustice that is portrayed in this book. This story follows siblings: Ella and Kev who are both gifted with incredible powers. Ella is able to walk through people’s memories as well as see glimpses of the future. Kev was born in 1992 amid the Los Angeles riots hence his nickname “Riot Baby”. Their mother moves them to Harlem in search of a better life to only face similar injustices in a different community. Even though Kev is incredibly intelligent as a tech wiz in love with computers he books, he finds himself a victim of being a black man in America and ends up incarcerated. He powers through through his telepathic connection that he has with his sister. This story covers so many real life events that black people in this country have faced and are facing: the beating of Rodney King in 1992, the Watts riot in the 1960s, the KKK, police brutality, racial profiling, etc. This book is NOT an easy read but it educates you on the sheer amount of systemic racism and social injustice that black people have faced in this country. This book was absolutely incredible. I haven’t read a story this raw and heartbreakingly honest in a while. Again, this will not be an easy read by any means. It will be tough to digest. That being said, read this book! Thank you to Tordotcom for my review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
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  • Paul Ataua
    January 1, 1970
    There is always an urge to give a book five star rating based on where it's coming from, the subject it's dealing with, and the message it's putting over. Despite giving really positive check marks in the boxes next to those three criteria, ‘Riot Baby’ just didn’t do it for me. Just looking at some other reviews, I picked up things like better the second time around, you really need to concentrate, or maybe you can’t understand it unless you are experiencing these things. All those things are There is always an urge to give a book five star rating based on where it's coming from, the subject it's dealing with, and the message it's putting over. Despite giving really positive check marks in the boxes next to those three criteria, ‘Riot Baby’ just didn’t do it for me. Just looking at some other reviews, I picked up things like better the second time around, you really need to concentrate, or maybe you can’t understand it unless you are experiencing these things. All those things are probably true, but that didn’t help. From where I am standing, it isn’t the masterpiece that early reviews seem to be suggesting, but having said that, it is a book that has something important to say, and it is definitely one that needs to be read.
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  • Bethany Morrow
    January 1, 1970
    Tochi Onyebuchi crafts a world that is fact and fantasy, mingled together. A history I know and remember, an urgency and reckoning that shaped and continues to shape our country, underlining the ongoing skirmishes and reversals in which we've been embroiled. It's communal, and so personal, and it made me ache for my own Kev, the one in my family and heart, who has been to the same hideous places. This novella is a word that fills a need, a salve that tends a wound, and a charge that clears a Tochi Onyebuchi crafts a world that is fact and fantasy, mingled together. A history I know and remember, an urgency and reckoning that shaped and continues to shape our country, underlining the ongoing skirmishes and reversals in which we've been embroiled. It's communal, and so personal, and it made me ache for my own Kev, the one in my family and heart, who has been to the same hideous places. This novella is a word that fills a need, a salve that tends a wound, and a charge that clears a path. I will not soon recover.
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  • Lois Young
    January 1, 1970
    How much Rage can two Black siblings express for the entire Black race?
  • Beth M.
    January 1, 1970
    Riot Baby is the tale of Ella and Kev, siblings who are gifted with tremendous powers. Kev is born amidst the 1992 Los Angeles riots which powerfully impact his sister. The story follows Ella and Kev as their mother moves them across the country to Harlem, where they face similar issues of discrimination just in a different community. Kev ultimately ends up incarcerated and is buoyed through this trying time by Ella, via conversations during visiting hours and also her use of magic to appear to Riot Baby is the tale of Ella and Kev, siblings who are gifted with tremendous powers. Kev is born amidst the 1992 Los Angeles riots which powerfully impact his sister. The story follows Ella and Kev as their mother moves them across the country to Harlem, where they face similar issues of discrimination just in a different community. Kev ultimately ends up incarcerated and is buoyed through this trying time by Ella, via conversations during visiting hours and also her use of magic to appear to him in his cell and show him things outside the walls of the jail.Onyebuchi packs a lot into this little book. He builds upon real life events - including the well-known beating of Rodney King and the perhaps lesser known Watts Riots of 1960s Los Angeles - to demonstrate how racism has been, and continues to be, embedded in the culture of the United States. His use of magical realism works well to emphasize and sharpen his commentary on racism, while also allowing a glimpse into a not-so-distant dystopian future full of subtle warnings which will make your skin crawl.Onyebuchi is a truly skilled world-builder and I thoroughly enjoyed his juxtaposition of the real and the fantastic, the present and the possible future. I just wish there was more! I could have easily inhaled a book twice as long, as I found myself wanting to know much more about the brave characters he created and the multiple worlds they live within.Many thanks to Tor.com for gifting me this galley! All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. Look for Riot Baby in January 2020.
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