Book Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 202...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book that's published in 2020, A bildungsroman, A book published the month of your birthday, A book by a WOC, A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads, A book with more than 20 letters in its title

TW: Lynching, death, racism, racial slurs

It's weeks later and I can't even think about The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones without my eyes filling up with tears. This was a heartbreaking, beautiful, hopeful, powerful story. I truly feel like it should be required reading, and I wish I would've read it back in middle or high school.

After getting in trouble back home in Arcadia, Washington, Ethan, a biracial 14 year-old, is sent to small-town Ellison, Alabama to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle. It's 1955, and while things aren't perfect back in Arcadia, Ethan is at least allowed to exist with minimal confrontations due to his race. But Ellison is much different, and no one looks like Ethan there. Fortunately, Ethan makes friends with Juniper Jones, an odd red-headed girl who's known as the town loony, but has a heart of gold. Juniper and Ethan vow to have an invincible summer together, marking everything from learning to swim to planting flowers off their to-do list. But neither Juniper or Ethan are invincible when it comes to racism in the South, and together they must learn to navigate a new era. 

I can't say I'm surprised by home much I loved this book, but I will say it was such a heartfelt read and I am so glad I read it. I cannot believe that the author is so young and wise beyond her years. Her characters are well thought-out, wonderfully developed, and both flawed and inspirational. Juniper Jones was like taking a beautiful breath of fresh air after drowning, and Ethan was someone worth fighting for - a character that you can connect with even if you cannot fully understand his personal struggles. I think it was so important to have a biracial main character who really struggles with being in a racial middle ground where he suffered for being "not white enough" and realized that those who were considered "entirely Black" suffered even more extreme acts of racism than himself.

This story pulled on my heartstrings, and infuriated me. For a book set in the 50s, the parallels to the racism folks face today was impossible to ignore. 2020 racism may not be as overt, but it's certainly still present in many of the same ways as it was 70 years ago.

"When you trap people for hundreds of years, make their lives a living hell, they're bound to get antsy. And furious. And so white folks think the harder they make it for us to live, the longer they'll be able to put off a revolution." - The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, Daven McQueen

McQueen told a beautiful story throughout the pages of Juniper Jones, and created a plot line that was so surprising in many ways I wasn't expecting. This is a story I would urge everyone to read. It's an incapsulating exploration into YA literary fiction with a powerful plot and well-written word.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★★

*I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

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