Review: The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Posted September 28, 2022 by Richetta in Blog Tours, Middle Grades / 0 Comments

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Review: The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

I received this book for free from Hear Our Voices Book Tours and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Review: The Door of No Return by Kwame AlexanderThe Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
on September 27, 2022
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / Survival Stories, Juvenile Fiction / Historical / Africa, Juvenile Fiction / Historical / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877), Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / Africa, Juvenile Fiction / Social Themes / Prejudice & Racism, Juvenile Fiction / Stories in Verse
Pages: 224
Format: ARC, Hardcover
Source: Hear Our Voices Book Tours and the publisher
Buy on AmazonBuy on Bookshop

Dreams are today’s answers for tomorrow’s questions.
11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets…
Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he’s hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.
But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi’s brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight. 
You are only fine, until you are not.
The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable–a sudden death–occurs…
The river does not care how grown you are. 

As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

Book Cover of the Door of No Return
Buy on Bookshop | Amazon

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander is the kind of historical novel that those of us who are adults now deserved when we were in school. This book embraces and emphasizes the narrative that the history of Black people in the diaspora did not begin in the countries where they were enslaved. Our history began across the ocean in West Africa.

A Story of an Asante Boy

This story of young Kofi of the Asante. He is an excellent swimmer, finds Shakespeare interesting and ironic (even though he would never admit it) and has a crush on girl in his village. It is 1860.

Let me just tell you: I read this book in one day because I had to find out Kofi’s fate. I feel the need to deep dive into this time period in West Africa on the Gold Coast now. Because baaaabbbyyy this one took me for a ride I wasn’t ready for…at all.

Foreshadowing and Other Details

I loved that this was a novel-in-verse. Also, the poems are grouped into larger chapters. The chapters serve as foreshadowing for the fate of Kofi. I recommend checking out the end pages for additional glossaries on the Twi language and symbols that are used to mark each chapter. If you are a fan of Roots, this is a good novel for you to check out.

Book Pairings

After I finished this book, I was talking to my daughter about The Door of No Return and she responded, “Oh like The 1619 Project: Born in the Water!” And wouldn’t you know she beat me to a book recommendation first! Born in the Water is a perfect pairing for any young reader or adult reader to read with Kwame Alexander’s The Door of No Return. I’d also recommend, The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones and African Icons:Ten People Who Shaped History by Tracey Baptiste to learn even more about African-American and African history. You can also check out this video on the Door of No Return in Ghana.

Final Thoughts

Alexander mentions at the beginning of the book that it was a hard one to write. But he does an excellent job of resurrecting the stories, humanity and history of the ancestors. There is a point when this book will become hard to read because of the emotions connected to this history. But by then you are ready to face the hard parts because Alexander has prepared you with Kofi’s life of joy, boyish fun and family.


I came for… Kwame Alexander. I’ve been wanting to read one of his books and this was a great one to begin with!

I stayed for… the foreshadowing and tension. I thought I knew history, but you could’ve slapped me with the “You know nothing Jon Snow” line for this one.

Hot Cocoa Moments: It was so cute when Ama gave Kofi advice on how to swim better in order to beat his cousin in the race. Also, Ebo and his big mouth was hilarious.

Would I Read it Again: Yes. I’m going back and looking at some more symbolism after reading the glossary.

Educator Recommendations: This is definitely a book I recommend for everyone. It shakes loose the mythology built up in the United States that enslaved people had no history and were blank slates upon arrival. I recommend reading Born on the Water with students first to help them build visuals before the begin reading The Door of No Return. Encourage students to do the research on the slave castles in Ghana.

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