BOOK REVIEW of THE CHIBOK GIRLS by Helon Habila 4 out of 5 Stars


Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University





Length: 128 PAGES  

Publication Date: DECEMBER 5, 2016

ISBN: 9780997126464

Price: $12.99 USD


My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars    



On April 14, 2014, 276 girls from the Chibok Secondary School in northern Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the world’s deadliest terrorist group. Most were never heard from again. Acclaimed Nigerian novelist Helon Habila, who grew up in northern Nigeria, returned to Chibok and gained intimate access to the families of the kidnapped to offer a devastating account of this tragedy that stunned the world. With compassion and deep understanding of historical context, Habila tells the stories of the girls and the anguish of their parents; chronicles the rise of Boko Haram and the Nigerian government’s inept response; and captures the indifference of the media and the international community whose attention has moved on. Employing a fiction writer’s sensibility and a journalist’s curiosity, THE CHIBOK GIRLS provides poignant portraits of everyday Nigerians whose lives have been transformed by extremist forces. Habila illuminates the long history of colonialism–and unmasks cultural and religious dynamics–that gave rise to the conflicts that have ravaged the region to this day.



I am torn as to how to review this book and what rating to give it. The reason for this is that the title; THE CHIBOK GIRLS is misleading. Why do I think it is misleading? Well, if you read the official description you are lead to believe that author Helon Habila has uncovered new information about the kidnapped girls and has maybe even met with some of them therefore providing readers with new information that no one else has been able to uncover. At least, that is what I believed when I began reading this book. He does meet with some of the girls who escaped during the first days of the kidnappings, but these are the same girls whose stories have already been told. After reading the final page I realized that the only new information contained in this book regarding the kidnapped Chibok girls is not about the girls themselves, it is about their families. While I was very interested in the information about the families and how they are handling the knowledge (or lack thereof) of their daughter’s kidnapping, I was also extremely disappointed. I had hoped for more. I had hoped that some new information about the girls had come to light and that maybe there was finally some hope on the horizon for the kidnapped girls and their families.

With that said, this book is exceptionally well written and the author does an outstanding job of describing just who and what Boko Haram is and where they came from. In fact, it is the best book I have ever read on the history of the Boko Haram Terrorist group. Helon Habila has written the history in such a way that readers understand how such a group could possibly gain the number of followers that it has. Readers will also learn the extent of the corruption in the Nigerian government and how and why Nigerian residents have become so completely disillusioned. These parts of the books are utterly fascinating.

I feel that it must be said that I applaud the courageousness of the author to travel to such an unstable and extremely dangerous part of the world in an attempt to keep the story of the kidnapped girls from Chibok from disappearing into obscurity. The story of the author’s travels are also included in this book and readers will find themselves on the edge of their seats and biting their lips in fear and anticipation as the reader faces very real life-and-death situations on his quest for the truth.

I rate this book as 4 out of 5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone interested in finding out more about Boko Haram or about what life is currently like for those living in Nigeria. I hope that this book will keep the story of the Chibok girls in the media and maybe even led to some new information about where they may be located.

  • I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley




Helon Habila was born in Nigeria and is the author of three novels, Oil on Water, Measuring Time, and Waiting for an Angel. His fiction, poems and short stories have won many honors and awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section), the Virginia Library Foundation’s Fiction Award, and the Windham-Campbell Prize. Habila’s short story, “The Hotel Malogo,” won the Emily Balch Prize. Oil on Water, which deals with environmental pollution in the oil rich Niger Delta, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (2011), the Orion Book Award (2012), and the PEN/Open Book Award (2012).

He worked in Lagos as a journalist before moving to England in 2002. He co-edited the British Council’s anthology, New Writing 14 and edited The Granta Book of the African Short Story in 2011. He is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University and lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.




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