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Gripping, joyous Jamaica-set mystery about friendship, community and recovery after storms
October 2020 Debut of the Month
At once a moving adventure and a thrilling multi-layered mystery, Kereen Getten’s dazzling debut When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in the close-knit community of Sycamore Hill, Jamaica, where Clara spends her days playing ‘pick leaf’, having fun at the river and avoiding the wrath of moody Ms Gee. She used to love surfing, but now she’s scared of the sea and she can’t remember why. In fact, Clara can’t remember anything about last summer. She also can’t explain why her best friend Gaynah is being mean to her, and no one will tell her why Pastor Brown has turned the entire town against her Uncle Eldorath.
Despite these unsettling mysteries, the superbly-evoked Sycamore Hill is a steady kind of place. In Clara’s words, “You live and you die here. No one leaves and no one new comes in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you know everyone, and everyone knows you. Other times you get tired of seeing the same faces and want something new.” And then something new happens in the form of Rudy, a cool, confident girl from Britain who turns out to be Ms Gee’s granddaughter. At Rudy’s arrival, “the entire village is buzzing. This is the most excitement we have ever had,” and it’s not long before the girls strike up a beautiful bond. Soon enough, Clara is enjoying escapades her parents wouldn’t entirely approve of because “there is something magnetic about Rudy and her adventures.”
As Clara’s memory begins to return in tempestuous flashbacks, hurricane season brings a devastating storm that coincides with everything changing - truths are laid bare, ghosts are laid to rest, and a new landscape is left in the wake of the upheavals. Poignant on friendship, family and community, in all their tricky, complicated, life-affirming forms, this Middle Grade wonder also makes pertinent reference to police prejudice in the UK. “Where I live...there are some bad kids, but there are a lot more good kids, but the police think we’re all the same,” Rudy remarks.
Clara’s huge-hearted story had me hooked and charmed from start to finish.
Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives - at least, that's how it looks. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There's only one problem - she can't remember anything that happened last summer.
When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara's memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.
'A winning debut of immense charm, grace and heartfelt wisdom' Piers Torday
'A brilliant and beautifully crafted tale... I loved it' Sophie Anderson
'A wonderful story with great heart, mystery, and insight. Kereen Getten is a bright new voice' - Clare Vanderpool
'A heartfelt and accessible debut about friendship, memory, and forgiveness' - Tae Keller
|Publication date:||1st October 2020|
|Publisher:||Pushkin Children's Books|
|Suitable for:||11+ readers, 9+ readers|
|Genres:||Adventure Stories, Crime / Mystery, Family / Home Stories, Personal Social Health Economic|
|Recommendations:||Books of the Month, Debuts of the Month, Star Books|
Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica where she would climb fruit trees in the family garden and eat as much mango, guinep and pear as she could without being caught. She now lives in Birmingham with her family and writes stories about her childhood experiences. When Life Gives You Mangoes is her debut novel. Photo credit Aimee SpinksMore About Kereen Getten
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