*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Nigeria Jones by Ibi Zoboi follows the daughter of a Black revolutionary in Philadelphia trying to fulfill her mother’s wish for her to have a normal life.

Sixteen-year-old Nigeria is the daughter of Kofi Sankofa, an activist who has built his identity and his community around uplifting people in the African diaspora with his pro-African beliefs. Nigeria has always been in his shadow as his warrior princess who can practice shooting guns under the protection of the Second Amendment and organize the youth who seek guidance in their community household. She also takes care of her 1-year-old brother Freedom.

With her mother missing, Nigeria takes it upon herself to be that motherly figure to Freedom while trying to find answers of why her mother is no longer around. Her mother’s friend KD, a White woman, tells Nigeria that her mother wanted her to attend the Philadelphia Friends School, a Quaker high school. It’s the same school KD’s daughter Sage, who is biracial, attends. And Sage and Nigeria used to be close, but Kofi has driven a wedge between the families, not wanting someone White in his circle who could allegedly taint his daughter’s mind. Nigeria has been homeschooled her whole life with her education focusing on the African diaspora rather than European history taught in American schools. But if Nigeria’s mother wanted her daughter to go to school, then what is the problem?

While still upholding her responsibilities, Nigeria wanders into the high school her mother had hopes she would attend. At Philly Friends, she follows Sage and her cousin, Kamau, through hallways and in classrooms struggling to find the balance between her tailored education at home and the one presented to her at a predominantly White school. Her new environment welcomes new opportunities, like getting involved in the diversity, equity, and inclusion club and practicing for debate club with a White boy named Liam, who seems to understand Nigeria better than she thought he would. As she battles her father in attending the school, she finds herself tracing the events that led to her mother’s disappearance. Since it was her mother who registered her for the previous school year before she faded out of the picture, Nigeria feels she needs to better understand her mother’s whereabouts in order to accept the new life she envisions for herself.

The story touches on eldest daughter syndrome, a branch of the birth order theory that has taken over the internet. The eldest daughters are usually the ones with the most responsibility and the ones who receive the most blame. Nigeria is experiencing this phenomenon while also coming out of being the only child for 15 years. Though her father treats her as his version of the apple of his eye, Kofi smothers any chance for Nigeria to find her own path under his roof. She supports his teachings while not quite understanding the world outside her home. The father-daughter dynamic pushes Nigeria to seek her own world because her mother is no longer there to soften the blow of any tension between her and her father. Most teenagers are finding themselves around 16, but Nigeria’s journey feels more complicated without her mother and knowing that her mother had other plans for their lives.

Overall, the conflict between Nigeria and the Movement she grew up in makes this young adult novel more layered. The main character is a teenager who really hasn’t experienced the real world with being tied to a community house where she is homeschooled. She is striving to do something most kids her age already do: attend school, especially attend an excellent high school in order to attend an excellent university. But we see all these factors at home weighing her down to the point she doesn’t know how to escape, or she escapes with guilt. It’s a heavier read with the blend of racial and social justice elements that come up throughout the story, but it speaks to the teenage girl who feels like she is unable to think for herself because her life is being controlled at every turn.