As author and storyteller Badoe chronicles 18-year-old first-year political science student Charlotte Adom’s college life at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, it’s one of studying hard, eating home-cooked meals between classes—and dating.
Charlotte, her roommate, Mary, and floor mates Juaben and Sylvia go together to nightclubs, where they meet wealthy professional men. Such a man is Asare, a shady businessman who aggressively woos Charlotte with gifts and a passport. However, she gives up the financial security Asare offers for the love and burgeoning political consciousness that fellow university student Banahene gives, which solidifies when Jerry Rawlings comes to power for a second time in a 1981 coup and forces the university students into work camps, along with other, increasingly violent tactics used to shut down popular and student dissent. Unfortunately, Charlotte’s bland first-person narration fails to convey the adrenaline involved in love and struggle under Rawlings’ dictatorship. (“I felt the heat in my face as he twirled his pen around and around, smug as a magistrate” is typical prose.) Thus, the shock of what happens to Charlotte near the end comes from the fact of the violence itself, not how the author describes it—which may be fine for a griot but not for a writer.
As revolutions go, this is a rather dull one. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)