I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published by Penguin on May 30th 2017
Format: ARC (320 pages) • Source: Publisher
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It’s been sixty-five days since the accident that killed Juniper’s sister, and ripped Juniper’s world apart.
Then she finds the love letter: written by Camilla on the day of the accident, addressed mysteriously to “You,” but never sent. Desperate to learn You’s identity and deliver the message, Juniper starts to investigate.
Until she loses something. A card from her Happiness Index: a ritual started by sunny Camie for logging positives each day. It’s what’s been holding Juniper together since her death – but a lost card only widens the hole she left behind. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own dark secret: a memory she can't let anyone else find out.
The search for You and her card take Juniper to even less expected places, and as she connects with those whose secrets she upturns in the effort, she may just find the means to make peace with her own.
This is a smart, funny, poignant book guaranteed to make you laugh and cry – and maybe even take notes.
Initial Excitement & Summary
It was pretty obvious how excited I was for this book when I first heard of it. (I talked about it multiple times on here.) I can’t believe I waited until release week to read the ARC I was so pumped to receive. 🙄 I always do this to myself because I get nervous that it won’t live up to my expectations, since they’re so high. I love books involving lists, letters, and other ~quests~ so this was right up my alley.
When Juniper finds a letter addressed to YOU shortly after her sister, Cammie, passes away, she is determined to figure out who YOU is. In the meantime, she loses one of her own index cards with a secret on it that she doesn’t want people to find. Along the way, she develops relationships/friendships with others who are in need of a little something.
Storytelling, Setting, and Feels
Like I said, I had a great feeling I’d love this book from the moment I saw the synopsis (and, to be honest, the cover!). It’s pretty amazing when a book you hyped up like CRAZY for yourself ends up completely hitting the nail on the head. I’d say JUNIPER LEMON ended up even exceeding those expectations.
I’ll talk more in the next section, but I loved all of the characters and the friend group Juniper pulled together. Juniper wasn’t alone on her quest to figure out who YOU was because these people helped her constantly. I don’t read many books with fresh, raw grief, where the person died within the last year or so of the book starting. I’m always afraid of getting too sad. I’m glad I broke out of that norm though because the grief was handled so well. The author also highlighted the different ways people grieve and “move on” from something like this; it’s never one size fits all.
There were a lot of different elements to the story and things happening at once, but all of those intricacies made it more complex and interesting. I liked seeing Juniper’s notes and other people’s handwriting throughout too. Little touches like that make me so happy.
The characters were a wonderful highlight of this story. Juniper herself was really interesting and completely determined to solve all of these little mysteries that Cammie left behind. The friends she ended up with supported her even when she was moving on to grand gesture territory. I feel like lots of other YA friend groups would have told her to cool it, but these people never stopped helping and hoping along with her. Brand was the kind of annoying cool guy that had a soft side. Nate was the new kid with plenty of jokes and lots of support. Kody just finished making herself over but was still dealing with bullies. Angela was the quiet girl. Sponge was the super smart kid with a photographic memory. They all needed each other in different ways and I loved seeing how they came together as a group.
I would have loved more characterization for her parents. I know her mom kind of holed up inside herself after the accident, but it seemed like her dad had a great personality. He had potential to be a favorite YA dad but there just wasn’t enough there.
Negative Stuff & Ending Thoughts
I was pretty obsessed with this book for the first 75% straight. I couldn’t stop reading and was determined to basically finish it in one night (I did). My obsession-level feelings did waver in the final part of the book, but I was still totally in love with it. I don’t have a lot of complaints about this book.
Morgan, the bully mean girl character that was tossed in completely randomly a few times, made me incredibly angry. She seemed like she was literally inserted just to be a bitch to have that trope covered. I can’t fathom that people would actually be that cruel about someone’s sibling that just died. I don’t get it. However, I will say that it allowed for some of my FAVORITE scenes where Juniper stuck up for herself like crazy.
So. The ending. You know that books like this can go either direction but you hope for one result — to find out the identity of the person they’d been searching for the whole time. View Spoiler »I know it’s more about Juniper’s journey than the destination here, but I still am bummed we don’t learn who YOU is. It seems like there could be a few viable options but there was no resolution. It bums me out that YOU wouldn’t want to go talk with Juniper after everything she did. If I were YOU, I’d reveal myself immediately to have someone to talk to about my grief. Her sister, overall, stayed somewhat of a mystery. That makes me sad. « Hide Spoiler Overall though, this book was fantastic on each and every page. I loved the characters, the story, the intricacies of it all.