♡ This is a spoiler free review.
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.
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index made me happy. It is a lovely yet poignant story about Juniper Lemon, who lost her sister and as a result her family and friends as well. She must learn how to cope with the holes that all these losses have created and to find something that will fill these holes and make her whole again.
Juniper was such a lovely protagonist; she was witty, smart, sarcastic and best of all real. She made mistakes, she did the wrong thing, but she got up and carried on every single time. She was such a strong character and I really admired her for that. The grief and sadness that Juniper experienced was almost palpable, but not heavy or overwhelming; in fact I think that Israel managed to create a really refreshing and light read and Juniper’s wit and sarcasm had me laughing out loud quite a few times.
I really enjoyed the group of characters we got to meet in this novel; they were all so great and supportive of Juniper and each and every one of them brought something unique to the story. All of them had their own struggles that they had to deal with; sexual orientation, an abusive home and even suicide. I think all of these struggles were handled very tactfully and added to the depth and development of each and every character. Also the high school experience that Israel created was spot on, she managed to capture the lessons, detentions and every day drama of high school perfectly. I was naturally a sucker for the romance aspect of the novel, I love the whole bad-boy-turned-good-guy trope and it was executed superbly. Israel also managed to capture the awkwardness that goes along with first loves and first kisses marvelously and even had me blushing at their clumsiness.
Another thing that I was very fond of was Juniper’s happiness index cards, she used them to rate her happiness as well as positive/negative things that happened in a day. It was heart warming each time she filled out an index card as it was another way for her to remember Camie. I also loved her art projects and the way she used art to memorialize Camie and reminded everyone that she will not allow Camie to be forgotten. The family dynamics in this was honest and raw and Juniper had a very strained relationship with her family after the accident and you could almost feel the tension every time there was a family scene.
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is truly a remarkable story that manages to encompass both love and loss into one lemony fresh read. I can hardly believe that this is Israel’s debut novel and I’m excited to see what she comes up with next!
♡ Content Warning — Alcoholism, Mentions of Physical Abuse and Thoughts of Suicide.
♡ I kindly received a copy from Penguin Randomhouse SA for review, this has in no way affected my opinion.