Book Review: Five questions to help young people make better decisions 

What you need to know:

  • Using books or academic works written about youth or on the areas he focuses on, as sources, would have lent a little more authority to his work.

“When I was a little boy, I actually wanted to be a girl.” This opening line of Chapter One of the book 5 Things Every Young Person Should Know, would make most people want to read on, as it did for me. The beauty is that most of the book continues this way, with lines that make you want to turn the next page and learn more. 

The author Henry Muguluma writes that there are five things that affect people’s lives, which they need to consider carefully. These include their identity, purpose, potential, heritage and destiny. If one can answer the questions, 1) who they are; 2) what they were born to do; 3) the skills and talents they have; 4) where they come from; and 5) where they are going; then they will be able to do good and great things for their society and themselves, instead of being like a little boat floating aimlessly on a wide lake. Muguluma gives attention to these issues by explaining what each means, and then providing examples to help us understand them better and finally leaving us with a call to action.
It is interesting that he gives a whole section to heritage as this is one topic that is generally not written about, and yet, as Muguluma shows, is just as important. Heritage. He says, cannot be discarded especially for those embarrassed or hurt by it, but one can learn to pick the good, and leave the bad.

The author uses many of his personal experiences and is not shy to talk about his strengths and talents in the same breath as his flaws and mistakes. This helps the reader relate with him and let their guard down, allowing his advice to sink in. The story of how little Jonathan destroyed a precious gift Muguluma was given is a great way to make a point about understanding one’s purpose. There is also the story about how he used to write love letters for his friends (and their girlfriends) in school, that had me laughing out loud. And that’s another good thing about the book. It is crisp with a dash of humour and yet a good dose of inspiration too. 

While the book is almost 200 pages long, the author has made it readable by breaking up the sections in bite size chunks. It has 25 chapters and each is broken up into sections with most being no longer than a page. Muguluma also uses fun facts, short stories, and anecdotes to move the book along. The layout is neat, with many titles to break the grey, and some illustrations too. Any young person should be able to read it without feeling overwhelmed. This is also because the author gives the reader permission to read the book in a day, week or month if they prefer, because what is important, he says, is that they pick the lessons.

Where the book falls short is in minimal use of illustrations. For young readers, illustrative cartoons would be a good way to capture their imagination and make the points raised stay longer in their minds. There are also too many quotes. Almost no two pages go by without a quote popping up at you, many of them used severally in speeches, books and blogs. Perhaps if Muguluma had gone for quotes rarely used, to buttress his points, or even Ugandan proverbs, sparingly, they would have added an extra buzz to the book. It was impressive to have him credit the places where he got some of his information, something many Ugandan authors need to learn to do. However the list of credits was almost only online articles. 

Using books or academic works written about youth or on the areas he focuses on, as sources, would have lent a little more authority to his work.
At the end of the day though, these do not detract from the wonderful and inspiring book this is. Even though it is directed towards the youth, older people can benefit greatly if they put his advice to work. This book can make a very good gift for any young person you know. I would also highly recommend that schools, institutions and organisations that deal with the youth keep a few copies in their libraries. The person that gets to read, internalise and put into practise what Muguluma shares will be much better for it. 

Henry Muguluma 
Aristoc Booklex, Jumia, Mahiri Books, Uganda Bookshop, Gaba Community Church, Bookpoint Bugolobi, Glam and Poppy Shop No. 28 at Mukwano Courts