Young Blood is one of those books that you start off certain it would end in one of a few ways. The protagonist either dies, his criminal tendencies prevails against the state and the law or he has a close enough shave with the law and death to turn a new leaf. While the reader is certain of the options, he/she remains unsure which way it will swing in the end and the preceding pages of Young Blood conceal the end enough to make the story interesting.
Sipho the protagonist is a seventeen-year-old growing up in Umlazi, one of the largest townships in Durban, South Africa. Just before the turned seventeen and while still in high school, Sipho dropped out of school citing a chronic lack of interest and abysmal grades as his reason for quitting. Despite the concerted please from his parents and relatives, he remained adamant. Rather than schooling, he prefers working in his father’s mechanic workshop repairing cars. In a township where car hijacking is rife (like most South African townships), a teenager who is gifted in car repairs is a star and Sipho revels in the stardom. The problem with the stardom is that it attracts the wrong crowd. Those who seek his service as a budding car mechanic are criminals and it is not long he becomes an integral part of these gangs. His confidence soars on his criminal exploits. Confidence that had been sapped by his abysmal school performance is suddenly rejuvenated. Cars, sex and drugs become the order of the day for Sipho. His life suddenly revolved around, parties, hijacking cars, planning the next hit and even drugs. His staple diet was weed and cigarettes. In all of these, his only pointer to reality was Nana his girlfriend. His parents were either oblivious of his criminal life or chose to turn a blind eye. It is unclear as their attitudes are clearly ambivalent.
The writing in Young Blood is absorptive – not necessarily for the story itself but for the author’s penchant for description. Several escapades of Sipho and his friends are described so vividly that they make it easy for the reader to keep turning the pages. The book rightly depicts the stark choices facing young ones in South Africans townships. The rifeness of crime is laid bare in Young Blood. An inevitable end offers Sipho a second chance at an honest living. One for which he seems to count himself particularly lucky. Good read.