Thursday, June 18, 2015

An Extraordinarily Good Tale about An Ordinary Boy

I suppose I should make a confession from early on about a shameful omission in my reading list past. Let's not have any dark secrets. Let's bring it out in the open: I have not read a lot of books by Caribbean authors! There I said it.

In recent years I've promised myself that I would try and change that, but I can't say I have made much progress. However life seems to have been putting more opportunities in my lap to make a move for change. I have a bit more free time these days for one. Our next book club discussion* will be on the infamous V.S. Naipaul. I keep hearing mention of various books by Caribbean authors at meetings for the Writer's Union of Trinidad and Tobago ** as well. (If anyone has recommendations of good Caribbean authors, let us know.) On top of that at a recent meeting Mrs Marsha Gomes, Director/Founder of the Caribbean Books Foundation handed me a copy of a free copy of the YA novel All Over Again by Jamaican author A-dziko Simba Gegele and asked me to write a review. I could never say no to a free book of course, and the description on the back of the slim volume caught my eye, so I was happy to take a look. 

While I've read so few books by Caribbean authors, I can guarantee you that I've read even fewer YA books by Caribbean authors. If this is a sample of the type of YA book which comes out of the region, I think we are progressing nicely in the genre. All Over Again is a fun coming of age story about a young boy growing up in Jamaica with his mother, father, grandfather and troublesome younger sister Mary Janga. He is the most ordinary of ordinary boys preoccupied with his television shows, football, his friends and the unfairness of life where you have to deal with your annoying little sister. It is this simple landscape which makes the narrator so relatable. The magic is added with the lyrical language which makes you feel as if you're reading a poem with the use of imagery and word repetition which invokes perfect mental pictures like this passage where the narrator frets about having to attend his grandfather's birthday party. 

"So what kind of party will this be?A old party. A old, old party for old, old peopleA old people party with old, old people sitting on chairs in their good clothes listening to your father's old, old 45s"

Who among us can claim to not know exactly what he is talking about? It is Gegele's ability to draw the reader into the feelings of the main character which brings the our complete sympathy to this narrative about an ordinary boy. We are right there with him through his hilarious adventures (like when his scary opponent in an arm wrestling competition seems to have grown to monstrous proportions in a few hours) and his poignant ones (when his favourite cousin moves away). 

The resulting tale is one that can appeal to adults and young people alike, and one which I highly recommend as an enjoyable and satisfying read. 

(Now I'm on a roll of discovering Caribbean authors, I want to keep going. If anyone has any recommendations of good ones, please let me know in the comments.)

Disclaimer: I was given this book by Caribbean Books Foundation in exchange for an honest review. 

*I've helped start a book club! I hope to incorporate it in my blog posts sometime soon.
** I've started attending Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago meetings as well! I hope they will help motivate my writing

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