Title: Just this Once

Author: Jennie Marima

Publisher: One Planet

Price: 280 (Available at Savanis Bookshop and Rafu Books)

Reviewer: Rumona Apiyo

Until a foreign exchange program student shows up at Tazama High School, the students have a normal student life that includes; preps, classes, games, assignments and punishments for the naughty ones.

Nicole, popularly known as Nikki, is the envy of most students of her class. To them, she is beauty and brains and seems to be cut out for all the good things in life., Julianna, however, is an average student who also suffers self-esteem issues. As if that is not enough, her desk mate Queen is a pain. Queen makes ignorant, negative and rude comments about other students such as Nicole and Hillary.

The book gives us an opportunity to walk down memory lane as high school students. It also brings us to the realization and acceptance to the fact that romantic relationships exist among teenagers. Nicole is said to be Mo’s girlfriend and they actually break-up because of Jürgen the new boy from Munich, Germany. This is despite the fact the school prohibits romantic relationships among students.

Parent’s high expectations of their children are well highlighted in the book through Nikki’s father. She is expected to perform well, she also tells Julianna of how her father wakes them as early as five in the morning during holidays to study. Nikki becomes stressed and ends up nursing ulcers. It is with no doubt that Nikki fears her father and wouldn’t dare embarrass him in any way given that he is a member of the BOG of the school.

Fitting in as a teenager can be anxiety provoking. It was not any different for Julianna because she too, tried to be like her classmates who were doing well. She wanted be a friend to Nikki, also to get a chance to sit and talk with Jürgen. Also, when she was announced as the winner of a writing competition, it was more of something-to-shut-up people like Queen and prove that she too, can do something great! Nikki, did not feel like she was like the rest of the girl students because she had not started her menstrual cycle. Lastly, Hillary tries all he could to avoid the twins and everyone who flocked around Jürgen to look different and mature.

Cultural differences are well spread out in the book in various ways. Jürgen does not see a big deal in calling Musa and Hillary boys whereas to them that is not-so-African. They are men! It is okay for Jürgen to have a girlfriend and even show her off to the rest of the students fearlessly, whilst at Tazama High School, it is a crime. Things like FGM and witchcraft are just stories for Jürgen but which cost Queen her relationship with her family.

Read Also: A Curve of Darkness

This well layered story ripples well with the current generation. The author uses terms such as Yellow yellow, selfies, mobile phones, parties and series like Prison Break etc. Jeannie leaves the reader with a conviction that, there is more two teenagers of the opposite sex can engage in to enrich their lives other than having a hopeless romantic relationship. Hillary and Julianna agree to use their talents to come up with a book one as an illustrator and the other as the author. I would recommend this book to every young teenage because it is timeless, educative and fulfilling intellectually.

Rumona blogs at Tales of Rumona