Saturday 16 September 2017

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Review: Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie IsraelNetGalleyJuniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel (eProof) - It's hard to keep close a person everyone keeps telling you is gone.

It's been sixty-five painful days since the death of Juniper's big sister, Camilla. On her first day back at school, bracing herself for the stares and whispers, Juniper borrows Camie's handbag for luck - and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It's mysteriously addressed to 'You' and dated July 4th - the day of Camie's accident. Desperate to learn the identity of Camie's secret love, Juniper starts to investigate.

But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index: little notecards on which she rates the day. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie's death - but without this card, there's a hole. And this particular card contains Juniper's own secret: a memory that she can't let anyone else find out.
From Goodreads.

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel is a wonderful story all about love and secrets, family and friendship, grief and guilt, art and music, the lost and the found.

Two months after her older sister, Camilla, dies in a car crash, Juniper finds a letter Camilla wrote to a secret boyfriend - a boyfriend only called 'You' - dated the day she died. Feeling guilty over how they had fallen out just before she died, Juniper wants to deliver the letter to the mysterious 'You', to do this one final thing for her sister. At the same time, Juniper loses card 65 from her Happiness Index - a ritual encouraged by Camie to think about the positives in each day and write them down. But card 65 has a secret Juniper can't  bear for anyone to discover. In the search for ' You' and card 65, Juniper starts to find other secrets written by her fellow classmates. Juniper can't fix things with her sister, but maybe she can help those whose secrets she's found.

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index was such a lovely, moving, heartbreaking read. Juniper is a complex characters, still grieving fro her sister, and feeling guilty about her death. Because of this, she wants to do some good - for Camie and for others. Through people and object lost, other objects and then people are found. Juniper is so set on trying to make up for the past that she doesn't quite see when helping someone becomes meddling, despite the several warnings she's given by Brand Sayers. And then there's the mystery of who 'You' is, plus the secret Juniper wrote on card 65 - though that part was pretty predictable. Over the course of the book, Juniper comes up with several theories of who 'You' could be as more clues come to light. The mystery element was so intriguing! I could see why Juniper suspected each person she thought of, but I also had my own theory, which was strengthen a little as more clues were discovered. I really want to talk about this in more detail, but there will be spoilers, so don't look if you don't want the book spoilt for you.

I loved all of the characters in this book! I loved how sweet Nate was. I loved Sponge's quirkiness and his awesome memory. I loved Angela and how she was a huge fan of old school geniuses and classic literature. I loved Kody and just how nice she was - and I loved how things worked out for her, even if they started off not so great. And Brand! Oh, how I loved Brand! I loved how his bad boy reputation was simply that - a reputation - and that he was such a good guy underneath it all. I loved how complicated he was, how he could be so clever and intuitive when it came to other people, but stupid, if understandably so, when it came to himself. I loved how his and Juniper's relationship developed as they got to know each other - I just with a whole month after their first date wasn't left out, I would have liked to have seen their romantic relationship develop.

I also really loved all the appreciation for art, in all it's forms. Brand is in a band, Juniper used to be in the choir and had a solo in a musical, and Camie played guitar. Angela, as mentioned, is really into classic literature, Kody is really into the hue YA bestselling series that has been made into a movie. And Juniper really gets into her art class and creates thematic multi-media collages with the things she finds, plus the 'Camie was here' prints she makes and pins up around town. I really loved it all. It just gave the book this extra level, it made the characters feel more real, and it gives us readers something more to relate to. You could just feel Israel's love of creativity and art, and it was just wonderful.

Israel tackles some big issues in Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index, as well as grief and bereavement. She covers bullying, suicidal thoughts, and abuse, and I think they're all dealt with brilliantly - and, despite how heavy some of those issues are, she manages to writes about them in a way that doesn't take away from the general enjoyment of the book. The book itself isn't overly heavy - it balances the dark with the light.

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index is such a great book, a wonderful debut, and I'm really looking forward to what Israel writes in the future.

Thank you to Penguin via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 1st June 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Julie Israel's Website

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