When Morning Comes

Written by Arushi Raina

This story, set in 1976 at the time of the Soweto student protests, is one that should interest young people of today who may know little or nothing about the struggle against apartheid.

It’s about four young people: a black girl, Zanele; an Indian, Meena; a street thug, Thabo; and a wealthy white youth, Jack. All are in their late teens. The story begins when Jack and his friends, all drunk, paint their faces black and gate-crash a black nightclub. Trouble ensues, but there is also an instant, unspoken attraction between Jack and Zanele. The two keep meeting, but they have a difficult, uneasy relationship.

Zulu and Afrikaans words are used occasionally, and there is a glossary at the back. I enjoyed looking up these words as they added interest and atmosphere. However, there are four narrators, all of whom speak in a similar style. I found this confusing, and it was tiresome to be constantly going back to check who was speaking. The plot is complex and often hard to follow, though things become clearer during the final climactic chapters.

I sensed that the author cared deeply about her characters, but their emotions did not seem fully explored in her story. I wanted to know more about them: their backgrounds, their feelings for each other and, especially, their fears. Their emotional lives were hinted at in brief conversations—but we rarely heard their thoughts, which could have revealed much more.

This book, although beautifully written, demands a lot of the reader. I really admired the concept and structure and was totally in sympathy with the idea of the story, but I found it difficult in places and was less emotionally involved than I wanted to be. Recommended for teens of 15+ who are keen readers.