I read A Million Junes through Penguin Publishing’s First to Read program. The book comes out on May 16.
Imagine a Sarah Dessen novel—filled with serious questions and teenage vulnerabilities—paired with a collection of American tall tales. Now mix it all up into the Romeo and Juliet story, and the result is A Million Junes by Emily Henry.
June O’Donell and her family live on a “thin place” of the world, where ghosts visit regularly, cherry trees sprout overnight and wild animals steal shoes instead of chickens. June knows there’s bad blood between her family and the Angerts, but her dad died a decade ago, and she has no one to ask the particulars of the feud when strange things start happening. There’s also the minor problem that she’s got a serious crush on Saul Angert, and he seems to like her too.
Let me jump to the chase. This book was wonderful—both magical and thoughtful. It had all the right elements: a good story, a great father/daughter relationship, deep characters and even a little romance.
While I suppose the book could be classified as fantasy, it’s really magical realism. Magical realism is similar to tall tales—regular people in the real world who experience extraordinary circumstances. (If you’re interested, you can get a good feel of magical realism through this short story.) Emily Henry uses these elements well, seamlessly blending the contemporary world with magic.
The original synopsis I read on Goodreads only talked about the Romeo and Juliet aspects of the story—a feud and forbidden love. But the book has so much more depth than the small synopsis portrayed. In fact, the climax of the story centered around the father/daughter relationship of June and her father, rather than the romance between her and Saul. It also didn’t take the romance too far, which is appropriate for a teen-aged main character.
The other main topic in the book is grief, and how to live after tragedy. The topic is so worth thinking about, and Emily Henry gave it enough space rather than syphoning off its importance with more fantasy elements. It’s this kind of depth that’s often missing in YA fantasy novels, and I really appreciated that she gave it enough room for me to continue thinking about after I finished the novel.
This book is unique, with magical realism elements I don’t see often in YA fiction. I would definitely recommend it, especially for a teen who wants entertainment, but might also benefit from some deeper thinking.