“When Life Gives You Mangos” by Kereen Getten

I had to request an ARC of this novel when I saw the title and cover and learned that it’s set in Jamaica. And I was so excited when I was granted access to it through NetGalley. 😀

My thoughts on it below are my own and are about my experience reading the novel.


MG Contemporary




October 20, 2020

Goodreads summary

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. (Goodreads)

My thoughts

When Life Gives You Mangos was a good read and a quick one, too. It’s about a 12-year-old girl named Clara, who is struggling to come to terms with a tragic incident that left her unable to remember what happened last summer.

The story is fast-paced, but it gives us insight into Clara’s everyday life living in a small village in Jamaica where everyone knows each other. There’s a strong sense of community throughout, which is emphasized when a hurricane hits and the community turns out to help each other and rebuild.

The story is told from Clara’s perspective, so we get caught up in the drama and disagreement between Clara and her best friend, Gaynah. Since we are stuck with Clara, who’s upset with her friend for much of the story and focuses on only the negatives of Gaynah’s personality, I kept wondering why and how Clara and Gaynah became best friends. Clara focuses too much on the negatives between them for me to believe that they are best friends. It also turned me off Clara a little.

As the story progresses, we realize that Clara is struggling with something and it’s not until later, almost at end, that we realize what it is. There’s a big plot twist that I certainly did not see coming and made me reconsider almost all I’d read up until that point. It made the story a little more interesting and a little sad as well since it touches on grief.

In addition to all that, I enjoyed the story because it’s set in Jamaica and is authentic to the setting. From the small-town feel of Clara’s village to the children’s fear of entering Ms. Gee’s yard because she will find some chore for them to do. I also like that Clara loves to surf and that her parents are understanding, or at least try to be understanding and patient, regarding her fears and what’s troubling her. I love the little dugout area where Clara and Gaynah go to eat mangoes and the children’s visit to Eldorath’s house, where they dress up in costumes. I even like the mention of Koffee’s big tune, Toast, although it was brief, lol! It was a good read, it was quick, and I liked it.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

A contemporary middle grade novel set in Jamaica about a girl who’s unable to remember what happened the previous summer as she tries to avoid her grief. It was a good read and very fast-paced.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

6 thoughts on ““When Life Gives You Mangos” by Kereen Getten

    1. It was a really nice one. I’d also recommend “Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn and “Island Songs” by Alex Wheatle if you want to try an adult book set in Jamaica. Both are good reads. Of the two, Patsy is a bit faster paced.

      Liked by 1 person

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