If You Read This - Kereen Getten


It's Brie's twelfth birthday and she is conscious of the fact that, for the third year, her mum is not there to celebrate.  Her mama always made life special, including treasure hunts, going on adventures together, and also leaving a breakfast menu under her door the night before her birthday.  Since her mama's death, Brie has been leaving her breakfast menu request under her Nana's door; however this morning, she can't smell anything so heads to investigate.  Her nana is quick to persuade  her into a frilly pink dress before ushering her into the back garden where her family and friends are waiting for her.  In fact, everyone is there except her papa who is at work ... again.  Amongst the presents, there is one from her mama: a small box containing three letters with clues for one final treasure hunt that will lead her to a very special place. 

I was incredibly excited about reading If You Read Me, having loved When Life Gives You Mangoes (anybody in school will tell you that and I've made no secret about the 'Mango' chats we've had) and I wasn't disappointed!  Set in Jamaica, the warmth of the island radiates off the pages and the adventure Brie has is both powerful and moving in equal measure.  I sobbed and smiled my way through the book and the ending ... well, it's safe to say I hugged the book!

Brie is a wonderful main character who is clearly trying to find her way in the world without her mama who she was obviously very close to.  we get hints of her mama's larger than life character which I think is more evident as she feels that her father has forgotten about her, prioritising his work over his daughter.  He comes across as distant and removed, an outsider even when Mama was alive and still that way even though his daughter needs him.  Although Brie doesn't always get things right, she is a strong character and we see some of her mama's feistiness as the book progresses.  The treasure hunt gives her one last adventure with her mama and something she will remember forever.

Brim was the other character I loved.  The sound of his house made me love him before I'd even met him; a place that was built with love and obviously holds special memories for Brie and her family.  When we meet Brim, he appears to be suffering from Alzheimer's and has been moved into a home but obviously isn't happy.  I particularly liked his conversations with the girls when he felt they were talking over him - he may be forgetting things but he was determined not to be ignored!  The relationship between Brie and Brim is a special one.

Don't be fooled by the size of this book.  At 192 pages, If You Read Me is short but perfectly formed and I was surprised (why should I have been?) by how much Getten manages to cram into the pages (and how beautifully she writes).  There's a warmth and tenderness to this book which explores grief in a sensitive way; the death of a parent, especially for a child, is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with and this book does it so well.  Emotional, loving, heart-breaking and heart-warming, If You Read Me is a story of hope as well as remembering; it's a story of family and friendship, of coping with grief and learning how to live again.  I adored When Life Gives You Mangoes  and I love If You Read Me just as much - Kereen Getten is quickly becoming a writer with an exceptional talent for creating warm, thought-provoking books that will stay with you long after you've finished the final page and I can't wait to see what's next!

If You Read Me is due for release on the 1st September.

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