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Young Adult novel set in Sri Lanka – hunting the yakush

18th December 2018

The Beast by Jude Perera, young adult novel set in Sri Lanka.

Young Adult novel set in Sri Lanka Menaka, Rose, Dylan and Ash are on Ash’s tea plantation, near the Horton Plains beneath the Pidurutalagala, the highest peak in Sri Lanka. A reward is up for grabs for anyone who can spot the Yakush (the beast of the title) and gather evidence of its existence – one million rupees, a tantalising sum to capture evidence of the creature with glowing bloodshot eyes and velvety tawny skin.

Dylan has a thing for Menaka, which adds a complication to the teenage group dynamic, but then, the four youngsters are of an age when the first stirrings of love are beginning. All four teens have ways of looking at the world that are typical for their age. The narrative is as much about their adventures, hunting the Yakush and building life experience, as it is about bringing the setting to life. There are rich descriptions of locale…. the birds, the langur monkeys, flora and fauna, encounters with a leopard and stumbling across the eerie Lost Soul’s Graveyard…there could almost be ghosts wafting in the wings, as the mist swirl and eddy….

The group comes across little Usha who has been kidnapped (it was in all the newspapers the previous week) and she can attest to having seen a larger than life creature! Was it the Yakush? Further kidnappings, disappearances, natural calamities and encounters with thugs keep the story pacy and make yakush-hunting quite an adventure. Convoluted and  muddled at times, with more characters – including various parents – entering the fray, this is a book full of energy and enthusiasm.

Sri Lankan culture is also a strong part of the storyline, from religion to entrenched class difference, food and more, these all give an exotic feel to the narrative.

The physical production of the copy that we have is not great, I have to say. The typesetting is of a small size and a slightly unusual font for a book (in the UK, anyway), making the layout feel dense and hard to read. The drawings add a personal dimension – drawn as they are by the author’s wife, as I understand it – and have a ‘naïve school of art’ charm. The illustration on the cover is seemingly executed in scraperboard, but a black cover? I don’t know if that really works… it is not that eye catching compared to colour.

There are some odd turns of phrase… do mid teens still refer to girls as chicks? I don’t know, but sometimes there can be a slightly wooden construct. Odd missing words also indicate that the editing / proof reading process hasn’t been a thorough one. The narrative could certainly have benefited from a good editor to add a really professional touch.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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