The Youngsters Series - Picador Africa

It Feels Wrong to Laugh, But…. by Anele Mdoda ISBN: 9781770102477

In My Arrogant Opinion by Khaya Dlanga ISBN: 9781770102460

Becoming by Shaka Sisulu ISBN: 9781770102507

South Africa: A Long Walk to a Free Ride by Nik Rabinowitz, Gillian Breslin ISBN: 9781770102491


Picador Africa launched a series of pocket books written by a batch of ‘well-known’ South Africans, to coincide with Youth Day.


Note that well-known is relative here, as I’m only familiar with three of the featured authors, and why these particular people were chosen is as equally unclear. They vary in their professions, political affiliations, lifestyles, attitudes, ages, race etc., and yet the sample is still too narrow to give a true voice for South Africans. 


The purpose of these books is confusing. The authors tackle different topics which vary from meaningful subjects to hair weaves. The books are badly edited and the chapters are randomly strung together. The books don’t blend as a series. The only common thing is the dubious cover art. Even the question section at the back of the book, conducted by Mandy Wiener, is not the same for everyone.


The most glaring inaccuracy of this series, is that the title is ‘The Youngsters’ and I would hardly classify any of these writers as youngsters by a long shot. Rabinowitz is 36!  Or are we using the ANC Youth League’s definition of youngsters?


Either way, if you’re fans of Anele, who writes as fast as she talks, and is extremely difficult to read, or want to read more about the late Walter Sisulu’s grandson, who has spent more time out of South Africa then in it, then you’ll probably look past all the inconsistencies.


I can only recommend Nick Rabinowitz’s little book which is a light-hearted, unbiased take on the history of our country.


Ashleigh Seton-Rogers


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Sarah House

by Ifeanyi Ajaegbo (Picador Africa) ISBN 978-1-77010-219-4


 What needs to be mentioned, primarily, is that this book, which has a female protagonist, was written by a male author. 


He highlights the abuse of women who are used only as commodities to be bought and sold: young girls become sex slaves of pimps, thugs and brothel owners. Thumbs up to him for capturing the essence of the how a woman in this situation would feel.


This is also an expose of criminal activities concerning organ transplants. People are used in any way possible to make money, even by so-called respectable politicians.


The protagonist is Nita, a young girl from a Nigerian village whose boyfriend promised her a work opportunity in the city. She wakes up in a locked room with other girls and has no idea where she is or what has happened. We are taken on her often harrowing journey that gains momentum compelling the reader to discover what happens to her.


The book is very readable and although a first novel, it is exceptionally well written with good insights into the subject.


Dawn Blankfield 


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by Steven Boykey Sidley (Picador Africa) ISBN: 9781770102149


Words are magic. Consider this brilliant title: Entanglement. It means a complicated or compromising relationship and in science, particles that interact with each other, regardless of the distance between them.


What a pity that the author has only lightly touched on the meaning and has not used its magic. The only page in the book I liked, was the last one, when he explains the word entanglement.


Jared Borowitz is a science professor with no respect for the fools in the world. His mentor is dying and his ex-wife is gay. Sounds interesting, but despite Kevin Bloom’s and Rian Malan’s raving words on the cover, I could not find respect for Steven Boykey Sidley.


His debut is pretentious. The protagonist thinks, wonders and imagines too much on every page and the endless summaries and explanations are tedious. Sentences sometimes take up to 9 lines, with words that I have to look up in a dictionary.


Occasionally there is good writing, the dialogues flow: then I see what the author was trying to achieve, but most of the time, he is so self-absorbed and has so little respect for his reader, that I think Sidley should stick to whiskey-fuelled dinner party debates or polish his writing skills and give his characters more depth.


Pauline Vijverberg


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by Steven Boykey Sidley (Picador Africa) ISBN: 9781770102149 

Entanglement is pretentious, boring and badly-written. It is a perfect example of a debut novelist who has somehow become published before he has learnt the craft of novel-writing. 

Jared is having a mid-life crisis. Trapped in academia, and horrified by the stupidity of people, he is confronted with a few traumatic experiences. Not even these allowed me to see past the fact that Jared is a truly unlikeable protagonist. It takes a brilliant writer to write a passable antihero, and Sidley is not a good storyteller. It was impossible to believe that arrogant, opinionated Jared had friends and a ‘perfect’ girlfriend. 

The author tells, and tells, and tells. Writers need to show, as all good readers, and writers, know. Ironically, the endless babble in Jared’s head is what Jared hates most. It is stupid. The first 30 pages were useless backstory. I would have abandoned the book then if I did not have to review it. The book is also difficult to read - printed in a font that is too small, and on white paper, much like a school text book. 
Amanda Patterson

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Paper Sons and Daughters

by Ufrieda Ho (Picador Africa) ISBN 978-1-77010-168-5


This book begins with the arrival of Chinese people with illegal papers, to South Africa. These immigrants were hoping for a better life. They were escaping the terrible hardships endured in China.


However, South Africa was not the Golden Mountain they had envisioned, as more trauma and hardship ensued. The practice of their culture held the Chinese immigrants together. This thought-provoking book looks at how Apartheid affected the Chinese.


Despite the difficulties, the author’s parents managed to raise their children, and helped them to be educated and disciplined adults.


Ufrieda Ho was always afraid that her father would not return home at night, and later her worst fear was realised.


The story shows the transition to the new South Africa, which brings its own challenges and heightens the frustrations of Chinese citizens who still  feel they do not belong. The story concludes with a nostalgic heartfelt letter to her father.


It is an insightful personal view of facts and feelings, written in an easy-to-read style.


Dawn Blankfield


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