The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones is one of my absolute favorite books and one of the most tender and warm, yet fierce, gripping and compelling stories I’ve ever read. This beautiful book made me cry and laugh, it made me want to scream in frustration and it broke my heart, but it also gave me hope, and I loved every moment of it.
This is an exceptional coming of age story and fantastic debut by Daven McQueen. It’s a gripping YA historical fiction tale set in 1955, when Ethan Harper, a biracial kid, goes to stay with his aunt in Alabama for the summer. Ethan has been pretty sheltered, living in Washington with his white dad, so coming to Alabama is a whole new world for him. Ethan soon learns that being black in this town is not a good thing, and he’s feeling unwelcome, lonely and miserable, until he meets the town outcast, the red headed spitfire Juniper Jones. Juniper Jones (aka Starfish) is a character I will never forget. Her friendship with Ethan was so sweet and those two will have my heart forever!
“Good.” Juniper grinned widely, her teeth uneven between her rose petal lips. “Making sense is for nerds and grown-ups. I am way more interesting.”
This story is very happy and relatable with the summer adventures Juniper takes Ethan on; climbing tree, drinking milkshakes and looking at clouds. But at the same time, it deals with a lot of heavy topics like racism and bullying, with Ethan struggling with what it means to be black in this narrow-minded town. All along, there was this threat in the background of people who disliked (and even hated) Ethan simply because of the color of his skin, that made my heart beat faster. I almost held my breath at times, having a constant sense of dread and fearing for the safety of Ethan. The suspense kept me reading the book feverishly, wanting nothing else for Juniper and Ethan than the two of them having the best summer ever without having to worry about the evil some people are capable of.
I love it when a book keeps you at the edge of the seat from the very first sentence to the last, and when it opens your mind, gives you new perspectives and makes you think about it for days and days after finishing it. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones certainly is one of those books. It’s a story about the evil of racism, but also about the joy and healing power of friendship, about compassion and about facing your deepest fears without losing hope. It’s a book that everyone should read! I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with Juniper and Ethan and I recommend this book to anyone. I know for sure that its’s a book I will keep in my heart forever.
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