One cannot go wrong with one’s own company.
I read this book completely blind, having requested it based on: my ridiculous run of 4 or 5 star reads with Pushkin Press, the hype I’d seen on twitter and that gorgeous cover. I’m actually kind of glad I read it with no idea what was happening, because it meant that this book swept me away with its emotive story.
Rating: 4 stars!
Thanks to Pushkin Press for the eARC of this book, it has not affected my honest review.
About the book:
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.
What did I think?
This book is something else. I wasn’t expecting the story that I got, honestly. I knew When Life Gives You Mangoes was a story about friendship and loss, but that didn’t prepare me for the absolutely beautiful middle-grade read that it was. The initial hook, knowing right away that Clara has lost her memories of last summer, but that we don’t know what she’s forgotten or why she forgot it, had me page-turning fast, desperate to have Clara recover her memories and desperate for me to find out what had happened and why she couldn’t set foot in the water.
It was fascinating to read, knowing that everyone around her knew what was wrong and what had happened, but that Clara was struggling to piece it together, and it made me really root for her from the start as she tried to navigate a world that knew more about her than she did. It’s Clara’s relationships with others, and the relationships she sees around her, that are the true treasure of this book. When Life Gives You Mangoes looks at friendships, and how they can guide you out of the past or bury you there. It also looks a lot at how trauma impacts relationships, how hard it can be to let go even when that’s the only option.
There’s a moment most of the way through this book that honestly made my heart skip a beat. It was a gasp out loud moment, which doesn’t happen to me very often in middle-grade books. I loved the way it made all the pieces fall together, explaining everything that’s been going on and the reason that Clara doesn’t remember things. I honestly think this is going to be one that I reread, because I think there’s going to be so many poignant things that show up on the reread. The writing in this book is as lush and beautiful as the settings, and so vivid that it made island life that I’ve never experienced seem so real that I felt like I was running through the banana grove with Clara. I highly recommend this one, it’s a perfect read with so much depth packed into two hundred pages.