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First Look: When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

First Look: When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there's nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah—even though lately she's not acting like a best friend.

The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn't been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks...only she knows those aren't her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.

But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island—and give Clara a summer she won't forget.

Jody and Jowana share their thoughts on this poignant story of friendship and loss. Read their thoughts below.

Clara and the Island

Jody says: The island is Clara’s entire world […] And at the center of it all is Clara, a girl who’s still figuring out her place in her family, her town, and in herself too. [...] It is Clara’s voice that rings loud and clear in the novel, and one that young kids may find their own voices in too.

Jowana says: The island is a character itself. Clara is a complicated but resilient girl, and part of her strength emanates from her home island. Living close to the sea, she understands the grace and endures the rage of nature in equal measure. Clara is both fresh mangos and tropical storms.


The Townspeople

Jody says: While I do wish the characters were fleshed out a bit more (their development towards the end felt a little rushed and some characters could have been further explored), the book feels whole and satisfying to read with the plot and setting driving things forward. The island town illustrated for us is at the center of the story with all its people, secrets, and scenery.

Jowana says: One of the great pleasures of the book is witnessing the transformation of each character. Character clichés are subverted with realized arcs and pointed backstories. The pastor is full of hatred and bitterness. The eccentric is suffering from a painful past and an unfamiliar present. The pariah holds more secrets than the rest of the islanders, hence the ultimate insider.


The Verdict

Jody says: The book is a brave middle grade contemporary novel that tackles a whole host of topics. It’s a story of friendship, not just the heartwarming kind, but also the annoying I-hate-you kind that is undeniably part of being friends with someone. It’s a story about family, community, and the ways we try to be with each other and be there for each other. It’s a story about grief and guilt too (which was surprising for me to find in a book aimed at young kids) and the ways we try to deal with the heavy weight of regret.

Jowana says: When Life Gives You Mangos is an insightful and cathartic tale of acceptance. The skill of Getten shines in each chapter as she constructs an engaging plot, introduces readers to an assortment of memorable characters, constructs episodes, and obscures essential details in plain sight. The book starts like most middle-grade stories about the pressures of friendship, makes a sharp turn, and reveals itself as a profound tale of accepting and letting go of the ghosts from our past.

Jody is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking.

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Jowana has harnessed her powers working as a social media manager for almost a decade.
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[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our writers anyway.]

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