A vivid and tender portrait of a teenager learning to navigate adult emotions, survive deracination and discover who she is inside.
Suzi Feay, Financial Times Best Summer Books
DIANA ANYAKWO grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. She is of mixed Irish and Nigerian heritage. She moved to the UK when she was a teenager and later graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in Molecular Biology and a Masters in Bioreactor Systems. She spent three years in Athens, Greece where she taught English and worked as an editor at an educational publisher. She currently lives and works in Manchester as a freelance writer and editor of English Language teaching materials.
Her debut novel, My Life As a Chameleon is published by Atom Books, Little Brown UK in May 2023.
In this highly anticipated debut freedom comes with the courage to be seen.
Lily is a sixteen-year-old living in Manchester. It is nearly five years since her father's death, and she is soon to return to her birthplace in Nigeria to reunite with her mother and siblings for the anniversary. As cold rain thunders on the streets of Moss Side she looks back over her young life and wonders . . . how did she get here?
As a young girl in Lagos, Lily is the baby of her large family. The daughter of a Nigerian father and Irish mother, she lives in a dual reality: one where moments of bright colour and tenderness exist alongside a sense of danger just beneath the surface of her apparently idyllic life. This is a tension that nobody dares speak out loud and it teaches Lily an early lesson: always blend in, always play the right part.
But the truth cannot stay hidden forever. Things in Lagos itself, and within her family, soon reach breaking point. As her city and her family implode into chaos around her, and at school her skin colour marks her out from the crowd, Lily struggles to know how to blend in. And when her mother sends her away to school in England, Lily's sense of identity is challenged in even more painful ways.
This is a powerful story of resilience and belonging, about family secrets and how they can destroy even the deepest bonds. It is a story about finding your place in the world and realising you deserve to be there.
The author says: I'm sharing this story because I believe we can all relate to the intensity of our feelings as we are moving from childhood through our teenage years to being an adult and I want young people to feel that whatever they are going through, they are not alone.
"Told with an authenticity that shines through…A book for anyone who's felt lonely, misunderstood or out of place, who's had to switch who they are to blend in or disappear." Afua Hagan, The British Blacklist
"An exceptional debut which captures the reader from the beginning and doesn't let go until the very end. It's a journey of both hope and despair, a story of empowerment, of self-discovery, bravery and courage in the face of family trauma and emotional turmoil. It's hard to believe that this emotionally charged book is a debut. Diana Anyakwo is certainly an exciting and welcome new voice in the YA world." J P Rose, bestselling author of The Haunting of Tyrese Walker
"Beautiful…captures those granular everyday details of growing up, of navigating friendships, learning to feel comfortable in your skin and finding your own voice. Diana Anyakwo's writing is immersive and I was completely absorbed." Andreina Cordiani, author of Dead Lucky
"What a lovely view of life Diana Anyakwo created through Lily's innocence as she tries fathoming out the adult world and how she fits into it...I'm bereft that it's over." Eva Verde, author of Lives Like Mine
"In My Life as a Chameleon, Lily grows up in the sweetly painful world of 1980s Nigeria. Diana Anyakwo handles both the tender and the heart-wrenching with virtuosity. In her hands, Lily becomes a powerful young woman." Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of The Deep Blue Between and The Hundred Wells of Salaga
"What an engaging, beautiful debut this is! Books like My Life As a Chameleon are why I champion YA fiction…what a gem!...There's so much to unpack in this story from mental illness to racism but it never feels preachy. Diana strips her writing back so the emotion shines through." Instagram review by @rinareads1986
"And this is why we love a debut. This is a beautiful and moving coming of age story from an exciting new voice in fiction, which I couldn't put down and read in a single afternoon. I think this story will mean so much to so many readers, and I can't wait to see what's next from Diana Anyakwo!" Instagram review by @tillylovesbooks
"A powerful, introspective and engaging book that's engaging and will pull on your heart strings." Instagram review by @erinreadstheworld
"My heart broke as Lily experienced the cruelty and fickleness of her peers at school – her difficult search for true friendship and where she fits in…I think this will be enjoyed by many YA readers and look forward to seeing more from this author." Instagram review by @tara_flynnreads
"A refreshing read, engaging and insightful…It didn't glamorise life nor Lily's struggles and I appreciated the rawness of her experiences." ****review by A Take From Two Cities book blog
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