Published: June 1st, 2017
Synopsis: 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.
Diversity: Sponge is confirmed gay. No people of colour as far as I am aware.
Warnings: death, grief, parental abuse, invasions of privacy, bullying, mentions of suicide
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is a look into death and how a person deals with the absence that person has left. It deals with how grief can be different from person to person, how it affects a family and how it takes over your whole life. Most importantly, it deals with getting past that grief and being able to move on with life again.
Julie Israel’s writing style is simple and easy to read. There is enough heart-wrenching detail that, in the hardest moments of the plot, you feel it in your chest but it doesn’t overwhelm you. I read through the book quite quickly because everything flowed nicely from one point to the other, and there wasn’t anything that took away from the point of the story.
Israel handled grief in this book incredibly well. It was open and honest and wasn’t clean. Juniper clearly suffers from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and, although it would have been nice to have this addressed more certainly, it was obviously there. I also liked the idea of all these different ways to grief rubbing up against each other, causing friction and pain that no side means to cause – Juniper wants to surround herself with her sister so that she doesn’t ever forget her, whereas her mother has slipped into depression and doesn’t want that memory of her daughter disturbed in any way and her father is desperately trying to be understanding of his wife, and in doing so misunderstands his daughter. It’s a complicated situation and as things come together, you see these tangles of separate grief becoming something that can be tackled together.
The characters were easy to relate to. Juniper desperately wanting to make up for what happened before her sister died. Kody wanting her bullying to end. Angela desperately searching for a love she thinks dead. Nate trying to make amends for something he couldn’t control. Brand hiding his biggest secret even as he reaches out for the person he cares about. Sponge becoming more than just an amazing brainiac. They’re each explored in this book and they come together in such a brilliant way.
Unfortunately, this is done through an initial invasion of privacy that is revealed towards the end in a rather cruel way. Not to say that I don’t think it was handled well in the story, but if this is something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s worth knowing about.
The only issue I really had with the book is the mystery that remains a mystery. I don’t want to give too much away, but whilst I appreciate the idea that maybe the conclusion doesn’t even matter, it’s a bit of a disappointment to start a story with a question and then just not answer it.
The romance I found sweet for the most part. Brand is understanding of what Juniper wants in terms of closure and Juniper finds emotionally happiness outside of the grief-stricken cloud over her house. There are issues though, which are addressed and apologises are given. It’s important to have awareness of mistakes and that is there in the book.
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is a delve into how to deal with life after death and I think it was handled with care. It’s a quick read with engaging writing and I enjoyed my time reading it.