Book Review: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (ARC)

Riot Baby

Author: Tochi Onyebuchi

Publication Date: 21 January 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Dystopian/Sci-Fi

Pages: 175


Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.

Coming in at under 175 pages, Riot Baby is a harrowing and visceral account of what it’s like growing up black in America. I can’t begin to explain the amount of rage, pain, and injustice that is portrayed in this book.

This story follows siblings: Ella and Kev who are both gifted with incredible powers. Ella is able to walk through people’s memories as well as see glimpses of the future.

Kev was born in 1992 amid the Los Angeles riots hence his nickname “Riot Baby”. Their mother moves them to Harlem in search of a better life to only face similar injustices in a different community. Even though Kev is incredibly intelligent as a tech wiz in love with computers he books, he finds himself a victim of being a black man in America and ends up incarcerated. He powers through through his telepathic connection that he has with his sister.

This story covers so many real life events that black people in this country have faced and are facing: the beating of Rodney King in 1992, the Watts riot in the 1960s, the KKK, police brutality, racial profiling, etc. This book is NOT an easy read but it educates you on the sheer amount of systemic racism and social injustice that black people have faced in this country.

This book was absolutely incredible. I haven’t read a story this raw and heartbreakingly honest in a while. Again, this will not be an easy read by any means. It will be tough to digest. That being said, read this book!

Thank you to Tordotcom for my review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.


  1. Wow, this sounds incredible. I don’t think I’ve heard of this one but I’m happy to have it on my radar now. Sounds like a pretty painful and heavy read, but important too. Thanks for sharing! Great review 🙂


  2. Oooh, I saw that my library just got its copy of this recently, and I was curious about it, since I’ve seen it around but didn’t really know what it was about. This sounds like a fabulous read, even if it seems like it’d be emotionally tough. Wonderful review!


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