A thrilling adventure book about youth and terrorism

Tony Mochama

Spoken word artiste and author Tony Mochama speaks during the launch of the 10th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and the fourth edition of Kamusi ya Kiswahili Sanifu at The Stanley in Nairobi on July 30, 2021. He has released a new book, ‘A Jacket for Ahmet.’

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Fast-paced with accurately placed colloquialisms, the book seems to deliberately choose a light, humorous tone.
  • Expect numerous references to popular culture, including the hit song “Githurai” by Mr Googs and Mr Lenny by Vinnie Banton.

Title: A Jacket for Ahmet

Author: Tony Mochama

Year of Publication: 2021

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Reviewed by: Faith Oneya

On November 21, 2021, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations offered a Sh10 million bounty for five suspected terrorists. Among the suspects was Trevor Ndwiga, 21, a young man I knew when he was only seven. 

Trevor was the sweetest-faced little boy I have ever met. So you can imagine our shock when the events that led to DCI offering a bounty for him started unfolding. 

I still remember his seventh birthday and how his proud parents kissed him on either cheek as we looked on. And how cheekily he smiled. Years later, when in high school, Trevor would become Idriss after converting to Islam.

But that was not all. He later found his way into the Dark Web and thus started his endless fall into radicalisation. As we speak, he has disappeared without a trace, and his family have appealed to whoever has information about him to come forward with it. Trevor, wherever you are, please come back home. 

Trojan, the 16-year-old curious-as-a-cat main character of Tony Mochama’s A Jacket for Ahmet, reminded me of Trevor. His innocence. His curiosity. And the series of little choices that led up to an adventure he was sorely unprepared for.

Trojan’s dalliance with the Dark Web was also very Trevor-esque and a blunt reminder to parents about the slippery slope that is the internet. It’s in the Dark Web that Trojan has his first encounter with elements of radicalisation. And out of curiosity, he even adopts a new name, Ali. He did not know this at the time, but his curiosity would nearly kill him later. 

Written in the characteristic, politically-incorrect wittiness and dark humour that’s on-brand with Mochama’s writing style, the page-turner is suitable for young adults. Still, it appeals to the hearts and minds of everybody — even the salty-haired ones.

Humorous tone

Here’s one description in a moment of fear that might calm your nerves as you picture the devastation of the aftermath of a terrorist attack: “Trojan was so frightened at the sight of that jeep, and the men, that he felt a loud fart of fright escape him.”

Fast-paced with accurately placed colloquialisms, the book seems to deliberately choose a light, humorous tone to deliver the sombre topic of the devastating effects of terrorism and how the life of a little boy changes because of a single event. 

Expect numerous references to popular culture, including the hit song “Githurai” by Mr Googs and Mr Lenny by Vinnie Banton, and some video game characters as well. One question that Trojan used to guide his thoughts and decisions when caught up in the backseat of a Landcruiser driven by terrorists is: What would Jon North do? To avoid doubt, North is a character in a video game.

What happens next?

So, does Trojan manage to protect himself from the wrath of the terrorists when they finally find him? And why do they call him Ahmet? 

You would need to pick up the book to find that out. And what his entanglement with terrorists morphed into.

The author, who grew up reading adventure books like the Moses series and Tin Tin, according to the bio at the back of the book, may have been inspired by the naughty Moses from the Barbara Kimenye series. For Trojan is just about Moses’ age and is similarly witty and relatable. It also leaves a reader wondering: Will there be a part two? For the adventures of Trojan seem like they need a book series to complete. 

[email protected]; Twitter: @FaithOneya

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