Binti is a teenager of the Himba people, a rather insular minority greatly outnumbered by the majority Khoush. Insular though they are, the Himba have become specialists in mathematics, "harmonizing," and the making of astrolabes, apparently this era's smartphones. And Binti, young as she is, is already a Master Harmonizer, the most promising candidate to take over the family business from her father when he retires.
Except that Binti has won a scholarship to Oomza University, a very distinguished school--and on another planet. Her family is shocked at the very idea that Binti would actually accept it and go--but their dreams are not her dreams, and she does. And on her way there, the ship she's on is attacked and boarded by the Meduze, an alien species that has a very real and serious grievance against Oomza University.
What follows is, for me, the good parts of a Heinlein juvenile, as Binti has to learn how to communicate with her captor, find out what they're after, and come up with a way to convince them that attacking Oomza University isn't the best way to get it.
Along the way, this girl from a very insular culture has to learn about very different cultures, most of them not human, and learn how to handle the reactions and curiosity of people who know nothing about her culture and customs. It's a culture shock for everyone. The picky might complain about the fact that there are some awkward plot holes. Honestly, I didn't notice them until I was done reading. While reading, I was just pulled along in the experience,
This is a lot of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It deserves its Hugo nomination.
I bought the Tor.com Collection Season One audiobook that contains this story.