I hate clichés, but this book has rendered me quite speechless. In a good way. First, knowing that it is set in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, tells you something of its uniqueness. Trotman’s firsthand experience of the Caribbean islands shines through in the vivid descriptions of the area’s history, culture, and environment. But this is no glossy travelogue. At least not in the traditional sense. Instead, we are treated to a coming-of-age story with all of the trials, heartbreak and energy that only teenagers fully understand–or any of us who survived those tumultuous years.
The main character Kaya has some special gifts that not everyone appreciates. It is tough enough being normal. But in Kaya’s world nothing is as it seems. From myths to the paranormal, to aliens, and back again, college for Kaya, with its bullies, allies and enemies is one adventure after another. But it is Trotman’s gift for catching the nuances of relationships and the aches of these years that really lifts this book from any genre typecasting.
First there is Kaya’s relationship with his mother Josephine. Ever mindful of her son’s wellbeing, nothing escapes Josephine’s keen eye:
Later that evening, Josephine found Kaya, sitting at the kitchen table, doing his homework and trying not to sulk.
But although Kaya had succeeded in bringing the swelling down, Josephine’s immediate reaction was, “Wha’ppen tuh yuh face?” Deep furrows of concern appeared on her forehead, and she gently turned Kaya’s face from side to side, examining his bruises.
“Ah fell,” said Kaya, meekly.
“Off de bike”
Kaya grunted ambiguously. During his fight with the Mapepires, he did fall, so technically he was not lying; at least, that’s what Kaya thought. If Josephine wanted to believe he fell from his new bike, he was not going to argue with her.
“How yuh fall off de bike? Look how yuh look like Mastifay,” said Josephine, with dismay.”
Equally well-wrought are Kaya’s feelings, angst, and interactions with his love interests, Wendy and Raima:
He stared at the screen, mesmerized by the browser’s slow progress; until finally an image of Raima’s face, hair tossed and eyes closed, began to emerge. The slightly blurred shot captured her dancing with wild abandon, a wicked smile traced on her glossed lips. Under different circumstances, Kaya would have enjoyed the sensual provocation of the photograph. However, all he felt was a growing knot in the pit of his stomach and the increasingly crushing weight of waves upon waves of devastating jealousy.
Also, true to a school system with “houses” or to any school really, Kaya must navigate cliques, bullies, and shifting alliances. If this weren’t difficult enough, some of Kaya’s teachers, friends, enemies, and even some of his relatives are not as they appear. He, and we, are left wondering who he can trust as he deals with the normal problems of teenage life, and some problems not of this world. I can say no more without spoiling the fun and wild times of Kaya Abaniah. Suffice to say, you will be glad you spent satisfying time with this unique and wide-ranging epic of an adventure tale.