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Review of My Life as a Chameleon by Diana Anyakwo

This is a strong YA debut from Anyakwo, whose new book My Life as a Chameleon sensitively explores family dynamics, the difficulties that arise with moving home, feeling like an outsider and understanding mental health.

We follow Lily who tells us the story of her childhood from two distinct perspectives: the present, where she is 16 and returning to Nigeria to meet her family and honour the anniversary of her father’s death; and the past, where she is attempting to understand her place in the world amidst her mother who has little time for her, her siblings who have left the family home, her father who is unwell and her school life. Lily moves from Lagos to Manchester twice across the course of 8 years. Although she finds this constant uprooting difficult, each move forces Lily to find places of inner strength and confidence which allow her to develop a strong sense of self and an ability to adapt to situations. 

Anyakwo shows Lily to be a sensitive and thoughtful character and I enjoyed how the story  explored the relationship between her and her father. When Lily is young she’s frightened by her father but after his passing she learns more about his mental health condition, she gains understanding, and she considers what life must have been like from his perspective. I found that reflection particularly moving and insightful.

Anyakwo tells Lily’s story of mixed Nigerian and Irish heritage with great nuance and understanding (Anyakwo being of mixed Nigerian and Irish heritage herself). It’s a strong start to what will no doubt be a bold and exciting literary career and I look forward to seeing what she does next. 

Review by Helen.

My Life as a Chameleon was published on 04/05/23 by Atom.

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