Black Beach by Glynis Guevara

Trinidadian Glynis Guevara has now written her second Young Adult (YA) novel, Black Beach, following 2017’s Under the Zaboca Tree. Both titles are published by Inanna Publications. Black Beach is set (like its predecessor) in Trinidad. Tamera is sixteen-years-old and lives with her father and mother in the rural fishing village of La Cresta. Her older sister Mary lives next door with her husband Renwick and their young child Emma. As with most small communities, it is a close-knit one and her relatives do not live far away, and when bad things start to happen, they affect everyone.

At home, Tamara’s mother suffers from bipolar disease and is having a difficult time with her medications. She is either a zombie or super-hyper and is a real handful for Mary and Tamara.  She has been hospitalized before and will soon need to be again. Also, one of Tamara’s schoolmates, LaToya, has gone missing. Recently, there has been a rash of missing young girls on the island, and many think there’s human trafficking occurring. There are also ecological problems such as sea turtles getting caught in fishermen’s nets (Tamara’s father is a fisherman), oil spills ruining the beaches and an explosion at the fish processing plant that severely injures Earl, Tamara’s father.

If this sound like a lot packed into 200 pages, Ms. Guevara magically executes it all seamlessly with a laid-back narrative that is mature enough for the YA reader as well as an adult one. The issues that Tamara and her friends face in Trinidad are like those faced by youth anywhere: boyfriends, school grades and further education, moving away, parental separations, and so on:

Tamera thought about how some things remained constant over the years, like the leatherback turtles that returned time and again to the same tropical beach to lay the eggs of the next generation. She reminisced about some of the changes she’d witnessed during her lifetime, and a wave of uneasiness hit her when she thought about the recent changes that were speeding up around her. Mary would soon have a brand new baby. Azura was heading off to university. Jan was going to live with her Mom in the city and in less than six months enroll at a new school, while she would soon be out of school with no plans in sight for the future. What will I do next?

There are moments that Ms. Guevara uses to educate the reader too, such as the aforementioned issue with turtles and the oil spills that directly affect the ecology and the economy of their village. As a more mature reader, I certainly got caught up in Tamara’s circle of friends and family and there was even a little surprise near the end that I actually didn’t see coming. In short, a very convincing, well-written YA novel sympathetic to any young person’s concerns in these troubled times.

“Guevara has written an honest book about the insecurities of growing up, the complexities of family dynamics, the disturbing secrets of a community, and the power of neighbourly love.”

Quill & Quire

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