Saturday, November 27, 2021

Romance and Reality in a Caribbean Young Adult Novel


Read this book: Dreams Beyond the Shore  

I have not in all honestly seen romance portrayed in Caribbean young adult books. I would think it would be portrayed as something dangerous and to be avoided at all costs especially if you are still in school and have exams to study for. Or at least just a mild suggestion of it; manageable for both write, school librarians (if there are any libraries that carry young adult books –sorry but it’s one of those days when I just don’t think we try hard enough) and all other gatekeepers. If I’m wrong please let me know. And yet all our young people are maturing and would be interested in romance even if there wasn’t social media, and now there is social media.

A book I found delightful was American Panda (Simon Pulse, 2018) by Gloria Chao. That’s what made me start thinking about romance in YA literature. The characters are actually at university so it’s probably a bit older than the YA we are accustomed to writing. There’s a lot of flirting taking place and a totally unmentionable scene when I thought the heroine was totally unflappable. It’s hilarious; it portrays the difference between Asian parents of one generation, and the family expectations for their (American) college children including, naturally, who they should marry. It’s a theme we’ve met in adult novels and movies, to me always fascinating. I was surprised that the protagonists would face problems from their families because one is Taiwanese and the other Japanese. All Asians are not the same; I would think it would be most appropriate for America at this time of increased migration of different ethnicities and discovering Asians face prejudice also. It’s the  migrant experience in the USA. Anyway if you run  across it, read it, I think you’ll enjoy it.

And then my friends I came across the 2016 first prize winner Burt Award for Young Adult Literature by Tamika Gibson. I Love it! It’s set in Trinidad and it does not shy away from the realities of our lives on the islands in this region. Tamika Gibson hits every right note, corruption where you don’t expect it to be, political activities, family wishes for their children versus  their children’s desires, and a little romance between the two most delightful teenage protagonist I’ve ever met. And the Trinidadian language is like music to our ears.

I think the blurb describes it best. ‘Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Marchand was pretty satisfied with her life. Until recently! Willing to play the dutiful daughter as her father’s bid to become Prime Minister of their island home brings her family into intense public scrutiny. Chelsea . . . becomes increasingly disturbed by her father’s duplicity. She finds a reprieve when she meets Kyron a kindred spirit encased in low riding jeans. ( the only time I’ve liked low riding jeans, but it’s a reality for modern teenagers and so I learnt something). The two share a bond as he too struggles to get beyond his father’s shadow.


Dreams Beyond the Shore is a heartwarming story declaring that decisions matter far more than destiny. ‘

What a fantastic concept for our young people to comprehend! which is why the image is here twice.

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