Sixteen-year-old Tina lives by the skin of her teeth as a Goonda, a member of the gang of thieves operating in Sangui City (a fictional place in East Africa). Although she has erased most of her past, Tina secretly visits her younger sister, Kiki, at her boarding school. But she has cut ties with the Greyhill family, for whom her mother, Anju, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, once worked as a maid. Except that now Tina hopes to prove what she has long suspected, that mining executive Roland Greyhill is responsible for her mother’s murder.
When Tina breaks into the Greyhill mansion, she is caught by Roland’s son, Michael, her childhood friend. Convinced that his father is innocent, Michael persuades Tina to try to look for the real killer. Michael and Tina, along with fellow thief Boyboy, embark on a perilous search to unravel Anju’s tortuous past—a search that brings them into the midst of unrest and violence.
In Tina, author Natalie C. Anderson has created an unforgettable heroine, who, like Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander, leaps off the page as a distinct individual, both strong and vulnerable. Tina’s passions—her love for her sister, a desire for revenge and her growing feelings for Michael—drive the narrative forward at breakneck speed.
Anderson drew from stories she heard firsthand while working with refugees in Kenya. While the story is fiction, there is a sobering authenticity in its themes of war, refugees, poverty and violence against women, which are sure to generate discussion in and out of the classroom.
Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is Steamboat School.