Book Title: What Happened To Janet Uzor
Author: Miracle Emeka-Nkwor
Publisher/Year: Masobe Books / 2021
Number of Pages: 200
Name of Reviewer: Chiziterem Chijioke.
Blurb of What Happened To Janet Uzor
A year after their best friend, Janet Uzor dies in a drowning incident, Pamela and Ebere are trying to cope and move on in their own unique ways. Pamela buries her emotions, while Ebere has been on a mission to find out what really happened to their friend — an excellent swimmer, whose death seems strange. Pamela sees Ebere’s actions as irking, but when she begins to receive sinister letters threatening her life, she finally succumbs to Ebere’s theory, and with the help of Ebere, on/off boyfriend Eche, good friend Daniel Kalio, she sets out to find out who is after her life, as well as the circumstances surrounding the death of Janet Uzor and other deaths in Afobiri High School.
As they seek the mystery behind the deaths, a lot take place, relationships are broken and made, secrets are revealed, the past is dug up and the teens realize that all might not be as it seems.
What Happened to Janet Uzor is a Mystery Novel set in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. It is written in a third person limited omniscient, via the protagonists Pamela and subsequently, Ebere.
The story opening was captivating, just as a mystery novel should be. Pamela awakening with a start, in a pitch black room, was exactly what I wanted to read. Pamela, the protagonist, seems to be a character conflicted in her feelings and some times is driven to act by her initial emotions. Pamela was abandoned by her mother and is left to grow up with only her father, Alfred Lawson.
Her relationship with Alfred is one that is appealing to read. His preference to call her by the last name he gave her by birth, brings about some sort of humor. His use of pidgin when speaking to her and his portrayal of ‘hard guy love’ when he reveals his plans for her higher education, are captivating moments. Alfred Lawson represents most African parents and how they know to express love.
The dynamic relationship that Pamela has with both Eche and Daniel tend to spin interestingly as the story goes further. And although we never see it coming, this relationship is the core of every event that happens in this story! I found that exceedingly brilliant of the author. The mystery is hidden in plain sight and readers would feel like a light veil has been lifted from their eyes when they eventually uncover the truth.
The story begins as though the deaths, the mystery, the discoveries were pranks but when it kicked in at the middle, it jolted me to anticipate the climax.
Miracle Emeka-Nkwor unleashes a unique narrative in the telling of a young adult story in Nigeria. What makes this story fascinating is that readers, especially older ones, see life through the eyes of teenagers, their thoughts, their actions, their convictions. Many times we wonder — “are teens not too young to have these thoughts? Are they not too young to know this?…” This story answers curiosities that one might have about how a teenage mind works.
The writing style of the author deserves to be applauded. With so much going on, the author did not fail to keep the story controlled, and did not fail to let we — the readers, aware of the little happening like jealousy, teenage love and parent-children relationships and much more. The story was woven in a way that encompasses just the right amount of background story into the mystery!
The characters are well put together. In many ways, each character compliments the story finely. Their behaviors are progressive. For a story that followed a chronological order, it is as though the teenagers learn a lot within a transient time. A character that stands out for me is Ebere! She mesmerized me. Her intelligence, quick thinking and strong will in spite of the way she was trained, is astounding. More so, her sarcastic comments about Eche brings comic relief to the story.
What happened to Janet Uzor has originality and that deserves more than a star. Emeka-Nkwor did a terrific job in building the suspense in the story. The well established suspense and conflict made the climax exciting, shocking and thrilling. One would flip back and forth a few times, wondering how one hadn’t predicted that outcome.
Ebere swallowed and looked at Pamela. “I took your last note to the police station.”
”You did?” Pamela stared at her friend in surprise.
“It didn’t make any difference. The officer said exactly what Eche’s mum said.”
”That somebody is pranking me?” Pamela muttered dryly.
The originality in societal behaviors in Nigeria was properly explored. The fact that the children complained twice about being stalked at it was taken as a joke, a prank, without even being investigated, showed how the security system in the country is. Originality also came forth in other areas, such as religion, small community living, seasonal celebrations and much more.
However, one thing that troubled me greatly was the friendship between Pamela, Ebere and Janet. At a point, It felt as if there was no true friendship between Pamela and Ebere. From my perspective, Janet is the link between the two. And if they do wish to continue being friends, they would have to start from scratch to build trust and understanding. From the on set, it seemed as though their peculiar ways of grieving had put some sort of strain on their trust — with Pamela seriously suspecting that her best friend would try to scare her in such a sinister way. Their friendship — even with the late Janet is filled with secrets, lies and betrayal. This sub plot brought about an angle to the story that is unexpected. It fueled the conflict in the story, making it solid, but it certainly would irate some readers, like me!
Overall, it was an interesting read, with themes that I drew a lot of life lessons from. Love, trust, family, friendship, betrayal – were themes that glared. What Happened To Janet Uzor is a story I’d read over and over again.
About the Reviewer.
Chiziterem Chijioke is a creative writer, editor and a student of mass communication. She has worked as a volunteer writing coach at Fresh Writers Community, Summer Intern at Glitch Africa and currently works as a web content writer and editor for Creative Writing News. She has been involved in numerous writing and media projects. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s watching a paranormal movie or looking for velvet cake to eat.