When Morning Comes

Written by Arushi Raina
Review by Ann Turnbull

This young adult novel tells the story of the planning and impetus of the 1976 Soweto Uprising in South Africa—a student-led protest on June 16, 1976, when an estimated 20,000 students protested against the Baas Laws, which required subjects be taught in Afrikaans. Rania uses four distinct and vastly different characters to tell this powerful story.

Zanele is a student plotting to overthrow the apartheid government. Her best friend, Thabo, is a gangster, making his own way in troubled times. Jack, white, privileged and spoiled, and biding his time until he leaves South Africa for Oxford, has his character tested when he becomes involved with Zanele after a chance meeting. Meena, intrigued by banned pamphlets she finds in the trash outside her father’s shop, is drawn to the student movement by her sense of justice and her own chance meetings with Zanele and Thabo. With the exception of Zanele and Thabo, who have known each other since childhood, the characters are strangers with different racial identities who become closely entwined as the story progresses, each of them saving the other in some way.

This will appeal to fans of historical fiction as well as those who prefer fast-paced novels. Readers will be seized by the opening pages. From there, it is a page-turner filled with intrigue, injustice, and murder. When the violence erupts, it is heart-wrenching, and inevitable. Raina brings history to life by focusing on a small slice of a dark time in a nation’s history. As with the best historical fiction, readers will finish this book wishing to know more. Raina provides an extensive glossary to assist with foreign words (Zulu, Afrikaans, and South African) which delightfully pepper the story with authenticity. She also provides historical information for those readers wishing for a bit more context.