Signed, Hopelessly in Love by Lauri Kubuitsile is a little book that gets around. It was short listed for the Sanlam Youth Prize in 2009 and was recently short listed for the M.E.R Prize for youth fiction.
The story follows fifteen year old Amo Sethunya, or just Amo for short, who lives with her grandmother in Botswana.
Amo writes hard hitting stories for the school newspaper, The Voice of the People. Her investigative journalism has earned her a no-nonsense reputation at school and she aspires to become a CNN correspondent. That all changes when her editor, Lorato, assigns her the Aunt Lulu column in a drive to increase sales.
Reluctantly, Amo accepts the challenge and discovers that she has a knack for helping people with their problems.
It was a real pleasure to get into the mind of Amo, who is one of those rare people who know what they want from life at a young age. Amo dreams of becoming a journalist like Tumi Makgabo. She admires her editor, is loyal to her friends and greatly respects her grandmother despite their fundamental religious differences.
That said her head is far from screwed on right. For a start, her infatuation with the older John sends her into a complete spin whenever he’s around, so much so that he suspects she has a speech impediment. Her fierce loyalty to her best friend Nono drives her to seek revenge on the school bully, going so far as to pin a crime on the girl, despite the consequences.
But teenagers make mistakes, and it’s not hard to forgive Amo for her indiscretions. After all, her intentions were good. It’s also impossible not to share her heartbreak when she takes her alter ego’s advice and confesses her feelings for John, only to be disappointed.
Signed, Hopelessly in Love is set in Botswana but the story could have been set anywhere. It is the story of a girl growing up under the eyes of an ever watchful grandmother, who dreams of a career that will set her apart, and who secretly loves the kind and gorgeous older boy at school. It’s a story about friendship, about the consequences of our actions, and about showing empathy for those in need.
It’s a lovely little book (little because it weighs in at only 94 pages) that ends on a positive note, leaving the reader buoyant and satisfied.