Cars, money, girls: this is what you need to get ahead in Umlazi, a township on the outskirts of Durban, South Africa.
Sipho, a 17-year-old from Umlazi, drops out of high school and joins a car hijacking syndicate to make a name for himself and escape his family’s low-income life. Along with hijacking partners Musa and Vusi, Sipho learns the tricks of the dangerous trade and pushes deeper into the underbelly of Umlazi under the guidance of gang leader Sibani, while partying heavily and juggling different women nightly alongside his longtime girlfriend Nana.
Candid and unapologetic, Young Blood is the story of the intricate balance of circumstance and choice, swift gain and incredible loss, as Sipho finds out how far he can push his luck before the damage is irrevocable – and the consequences deadly. Both a red-hot crime novel of car heists, sex, and rival gangs and a coming of age story of a teenager navigating the costs of the fast life, Young Blood reveals the devastating violence and raw beauty of life in South Africa’s townships.
“With considerable panache, [Mzobe] lifts the lid on township life in Umlazi, focusing on the lives and frequent violent deaths of the young bloods, the township high school dropouts who are faced with a stark choice. There is a good deal of raw power here, and an easy, fluent writing style. I hope we will hear more of Sifiso Mzobe.” - Margaret von Klemperer, The Witness
“Young Blood is a sober account of the fate of many a young man. The question implied throughout is exactly how much young blood must be spilled before Sipho rediscovers his integrity.” - Lara Sadler, Cape Argus
“This debut novel is a compelling journey through the underbelly of the streets of Umlazi Township, Durban, and marks the arrival of a fresh new voice on the South African literary scene.” - Mbali Vilakazi, Cape Times
“Young Blood drops the reader straight into the Umlazi Township of Durban, South Africa, where, having quit school and desperate for cash, young Sipho finds himself crossing increasingly harrowing boundaries into drugs, violence, and criminality. Sifiso Mzobe has written a compassionate, unsentimental, and artful portrait of a young man on the threshold of trying to preserve his life and his humanity by the very means that will almost inevitably destroy both.” —Paul Harding, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Tinkers
“With elegance and satisfying language, Mzobe draws the world of a South African Township with difficulty and a simultaneous tenderness and hope. Mzobe is never sentimental, pushing his characters to breaking, towards a head on collision with fate and danger and consequences that seem irrevocable. Yet the drive is a deeply human one, the search for the limits of pain and the ability to resist the pressures of one’s environment to carve a redemption. A strong novel.” —Chris Abani, GraceLand and The Secret History of Las Vegas
“A landmark in South African crime fiction.” —New York Journal of Books
“Starting with smaller crimes like drug use and theft, Sipho’s actions intensify as he falls further in lust with the lavish rewards that crime gets him. Of course, such bad judgment calls come with increasingly dangerous risks, and the window for Sipho to choose a different path in life closes further with every escalating act. The fetishization of wealth, from upscale cars to access to expensive drugs, is portrayed deftly, illuminating Sipho’s choices as being mired in peer pressure and capitalist messaging […] Blunt, brisk, and fast-paced.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Whether Sipho chooses to ‘crash and burn’ or to, instead, slow down and live, is the question that draws the reader through the novel. At the end of “the year of stubborn seasons,” Sipho makes his choice.” —Africa Book Link
"Young Blood offers readers insight to a not often explored underbelly of South Africa while also providing a fresh narrative on the atypical “descent into crime” story." — Drizzle Review
"With crisp, cinematic prose, Mzobe transports us into the dark abyss of Durban's harrowing nightlife, where gang violence is rife, life is precarious, and young blood is carelessly used and discarded. Winner of the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa when it was first published 10 years ago, this raw coming-of-age novel will resonate with its new audiences for its all-embracing tale of young people eager to escape poverty but with too few choices." —Library Journal
"Young Blood is not a book for the faint at heart. Mzobe’s journalistic training manifests in each meticulous detail that paints a harrowing portrait of crime life in Umlazi, and hijackings, cold-blooded killings, and drug and alcohol use leap from the page. But at the heart of the book lies another message, one about friendship, family, community, and the value of education. It’s this message that leaves the reader hopeful." —Shelf Unbound
- Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa
- Herman Charles Bosman Prize
- Barry Ronge Fiction Prize (The Sunday Times Literary Award)
- South African Literary Award