‘The Cliques’ explores the insatiable teen desire to belong
What you need to know:
- Like the adolescent Lucia in Jesse Ball's How to Set a Fire and Why, Diana Gitau's teen protagonist Soila finds herself in a new high school where the truffles of settling down take an agonising course.
- She is ignored by the Nairobi Clique seemingly from the posh side of the city and her Eastland credentials and mention of her hood, Komarock, sounds like a recital of voodoo credentials in a charismatic church fellowship.
- Storymoja runs the Storymoja Festival with a mission to not only enhance writing standards in East Africa, but also grow the region's reading culture.
In the 2016 Mentoring for Kenya’s Marginalized Girls Benefits, Challenges, and Policies paper by Joyce Kinyanjui, she observes that adolescents face peer pressure, which offers a sense of belonging and identity. This is a matter at the heart of Diana Gitau's short novel, The Cliques. Like the adolescent Lucia in Jesse Ball's How to Set a Fire and Why, Diana Gitau's teen protagonist Soila finds herself in a new high school where the truffles of settling down take an agonising course.
VICTIM OF BULLYING
Soila is a victim of bullying in high school and transfers to another institution with hopes of making new friends, being accepted and enjoying great company among new peers. The rude shock that awaits her, while lacking in physical brutality meted out to her previously, is equally vicious emotionally. The new school has better food, cozy dormitories and beddings in a serene surrounding conducive for learning. The scenery, the view of the lunar magnificence at night and delicious food that makes her previous school grab appear like the worst Kenyan prison menu even by inmates’ standards, should make her happy and settled, but something is amiss.
Soila is a friendly Form Two teen with an insatiable desire for attention and an avid longing to belong and make new friends. She doesn’t want to eat alone or spend time hunched somewhere in the school compound like a recluse from the fun and buzz that characterises every high school. She is the typical acne-infested teen in high school with a deep yearning to make friends with the cool students. Soila craves for attention.
BANISHED FROM THE HOUSE OF PRAYER
The cliques in the new school are a whole new horizon she has never ventured. She is ignored by the Nairobi Clique seemingly from the posh side of the city and her Eastland credentials and mention of her hood, Komarock, sounds like a recital of voodoo credentials in a charismatic church fellowship. The Upcountry Clique think her use of slang is too hard an attempt to show she’s from the city while a fake testimony to try and move the Christian Union Clique to sympathise with her turns into a mid-story tragedy. She’s banished for lying in the house of prayer. As a good student in class and a voracious reader, perhaps to try to veil the fact that she’s a rejected outsider transforms her into an above average bibliophile. The Class Chops Clique seems like the next natural faction for her. Be as it may, it turns out tragic as her effort to rise early in darkness to read a novel hidden inside an exercise book turns out to be a Trojan act of deceptive quisling. She is banished from the study caves where the class chops spend their time reading.
Diana Gitau has written an engrossing account in the first person that absorbs you all the way to the end. Written for the teen reader, it lays down a captivating narrative every teenager will identify with. The book compels the reader to believe without trying too hard that sometimes all that is needed, perchance, is not to belong in any clique but eke out a personal path by following Soila’s motherly advice that you should “stand upright, smile and work hard”.
While Diana Gitau's book lacks the tormenting struggle of the teen in History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund in the heart of religious zealotry and predatory educators, like Fridlund's character you cannot help but ask in the case of Soila what price a person is actually ready to pay to belong and feel wanted. The result is a short novel written in an easy to read style, enthralling in its captivating prose with very sound simple life lessons at the end every teen needs.
The Cliques is published under the Storyhippo imprint by Storymoja, a publishing company based in Kenya since 2007. Storyhippo imprint has produced top quality, engaging and exciting Storymoja Lifeskills Series of books by local authors for children from the age of two years to more confident teen readers driven by the Storymoja motto, ‘Get a book in every hand’.
Storymoja runs the Storymoja Festival with a mission to not only enhance writing standards in East Africa, but also grow the region's reading culture. The festival returns to Nairobi between 27th September and October 1st, 2017 after a detour to Accra, Ghana in 2016 to celebrate the memory of the late Professor Kofi Awoonor. Professor Awoonor lost his life in 2013 during the Nairobi Westgate Mall terror attack while attending the festival as a guest. The 2017 Storymoja Festival will be commemorating 10 years of existence under the theme Black Peace.