"Gripping, joyous Jamaica-set mystery about friendship, community and recovery after storms "
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 7-10 | October 2020 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award
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.