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Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet Hardcover – April 1, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up-Warmly descriptive of life in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), this love story has a rich sense of place. Sixteen-year-old Jeeta's mother is consumed with the problems of arranging marriages for her three daughters and is sure that Jeeta's dark skin and smart mouth will turn off prospective grooms. But the teen's new friend, Sarina, opens her eyes to other possibilities. Discovering the pleasures of learning, Jeeta does well in her last year at school and enters college hoping to study law. Then, a handsome boy whom she meets at the swimming pool turns out to be Sarina's cousin. Because her mother forbids her to socialize with boys, she uses visits to Sarina to provide cover for their developing relationship. Readers may feel let down by the inconclusive ending, expecting at least an engagement, but the family's movement toward more modern ways is realistic. The novel reads like a memoir written by someone who wants to hold on to every detail of a remembered life. The tensions of family life in a small apartment are evident and the conflict between old beliefs and customs and the modern world is clear. Like the matrimonial ad her friend quotes, Jeeta is a girl with strong east-west family values, with all the contradictions that that statement suggests. This first-person narrative is a lush and loving exploration of coming of age.-Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 8-11. Most YA novels steeped in South Asian culture, including Sheth's debut, Blue Jasmine (2004), unfold among immigrants in the U.S. or the UK. Not so the author's second book. Sixteen-year-old Jeeta lives in contemporary Mumbai, where her domineering mother is consumed with arranging marriages for Jeeta's elder sisters--and eventually for Jeeta herself. The sharp-tongued teen can't help but challenge traditions that seem sexist ("We have brains up there, not roti dough"), but her protests remain theoretical until a cosmopolitan new friend opens her eyes to alternatives. Jeeta's relationship with a forbidden boyfriend is never wholly convincing, and her sister's domestic-abuse crisis, though dramatic, is too convenient to be entirely credible as the impetus for shaking Mother's hidebound ideals. But like the hot, sweet mango pickles Jeeta savors, her experiences crystallize the combined pain and joy of tradition and family, which Sheth anchors in rich particulars of setting, cuisine, and dialect (a glossary is provided). Many readers will go on to explore Tanuja Desai Hidier's Born Confused (2002) and comparable titles for adults, such as Amulya Maladi's Mango Season (2003). Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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Kashmira Sheth has done a great job of creating this beautiful teen-love story in Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet. This book creates a wonderful picture of the fascinating culture and strict family dynamics. Although I thought this would be a great way to learn about an Indian family, I was not expecting to be pulled into the humid kitchen with Jeeta and her sisters on a warm afternoon. The descriptions of the gold beaded saris and beautiful beach bring the story to life. When Susan Collins wrote the electrifying Hunger Games trilogy, I believed I would never read a book with a better love story; I was extremely wrong. Although it is amazing that Peeta tries to give up his life to save Katniss’, Neel’s love for Jeeta is even greater. Sheth has done a wonderful job of writing this young adult novel, and can assure you this is the best book I have read in years.
Life for Jeeta is not ideal. Her mother constantly criticizes her for her sharp tongue and dark skin. Beside this, Jeeta lives in a one room apartment with six other family members, and minimal privacy. Throughout the book Jeeta’s mother tries to marry off Mohini and Namita (Jeeta’s older sister) and while keeping Jeeta on a very short leash. One day during the summer as Jeeta is at the swimming pool she meets a handsome boy. Although she is not supposed to converse with any boys, Jeeta talks to him, and realizes that she really likes him. Soon summer was over and Jeeta returns to school, where she meets a tall girl with a copper-colored complexion named Sarina. They soon become best friends and spend many evenings and weekends with each other. One evening Jeeta went to Sarina’s house for an important dinner. She was very excited when she arrived, and was surprised to find out that Neel is Sarina’s cousin! For the rest of the year they spend a lot of time together, but soon Sarina becomes tired of being the messenger. Jeeta will have to choose wisely as her friendship with Sarina runs thin and she receives a special marriage proposal.
In this particular novel, the setting hugely influences the story. Throughout the story the author describes the small apartment which Jeeta’s feelings and personality get lost in. Her opinions often get eaten up and spit out by the strict culture. Later, in the wonderful setting often evokes a feeling of deep passion as the characters in the book embrace the culture and are hypnotized by the beauty of the auburn sun, setting over the stunning blue-green sea. Obviously, the author deeply appreciates the culture and gorgeous country of India as she drowns us in the brilliant descriptions.
Besides an amazing setting, the characterization really brings the story to a new level. Jeeta is a strong spirited girl who is no afraid to speak her mind. Her Father adores spending time with her in the hanging gardens, but her mother is sure “[Jeeta’s] tongue is too sharp and her color is too dark” (2). Although Jeeta is very bold, her mother mistakes this for disobedience which causes a mini-conflict throughout the story.
Although I’m sure some boys would enjoy this book, I think that this book is geared towards girl. The main characters are mostly girls and the story is mainly about a teen-love story which I’m positive girls would find more enjoyable. Besides this book being for mainly girls, this book would probably be for girls twelve and older. There are situations that younger children would not understand, and parts of this book would seem boring to kids.
Throughout this book, I found suspense, adventure, friendship, and humor. In addition, this book was extremely well written, and an easy read. The only negative part was the ending, but even though it wasn’t an “ideal” ending it was a great way to end the story. In conclusion, this book is a great way to learn about new cultures and has a love story that will leave you hanging.
"Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet" (meaning here Jeeta is a dark-skinned girl who is expected to have a sweet, mango-like, temper to find a husband) is neither a love story nor a coming-of-age story. It is simply a lukewarm narration filled with peculiarities of Indian culture - arranged marriages, expensive weddings, caste system, difficulties of dating, discrimination based on the skin color, all delivered in an extremely juvenile way. You would never thing that the narrator, Jeeta, is almost 18, she sure talks and acts like she is 11. There is no drama here, no mystery, no passion, no big revelations. Jeeta by the end of the story decides to go to college. That's it.
On a positive side, although book is of a very low literally quality, gives a nice "taste" of India with some authentic descriptions of food, clothes, and customs. But that's all, unfortunately.
Good only as an introduction to Indian culture for middle-graders.
Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet gives a fascinating view of Indian culture that is so vivid I could almost taste the spicy sambhar soup and feel the silky cloth of a sari against my skin. I learned a lot about Indian customs, but this book never feels like a textbook. Even though the setting is exotic, Jeeta's problems and emotions are as relatable as your best friend pouring her heart out to you. Her struggle to balance her duties and her dreams is difficult and inspiring. This book does not simply shun traditional ways of Indian culture, but causes the reader to consider both sides of the argument. I definitely recommend this book to everyone!