Part Shakespearean retelling and part Alice Hoffman-style literary fantasy, the novel teems with luminous, evocative language and characters so alive I half-expected them to climb off the page and walk around my house.
Why I love it
Once in a blue forever, you come across a book that features so many of your favorite elements that you can’t help but wonder if it was written specifically for you. A Million Junes felt that way to me: part Shakespearean retelling and part Alice Hoffman-style magical realism, the novel teems with luminous, evocative language and characters so alive I half-expected them to climb off the page and walk around my house. Throw in a forbidden romance with a slightly-older (and deliciously tattooed) writer-type, a cherry tree that bears fruit with supernatural healing properties, and a ramshackle farmhouse full of long-held family secrets, and you wind up with a stirring, slightly-spooky YA fable I was barely able to put down.
The story follows Jack O’Donnell IV (June for short'”she’s a 17-year-old girl, after all) and Saul Angert, the children of two families cleaved by a blood feud that stretches back four generations'”and inextricably connected by a curse that plagues both clans. June and Saul have each lost their most important person'”June her beloved dad, Saul his twin sister'”to a dark spirit known only as Nameless, and grief has turned both families brittle. Following Saul’s return to the curious upper Michigan town of Five Fingers where both families have lived for ages, and a chance meeting in a house of mirrors, the two of them team up to uncover the genesis of the curse and keep it from claiming anyone else'”and find themselves falling for each other in the process.
A Million Junes is very much a love story'”and the romance, I will tell you, is sexy as a naked late-night jump in Five Fingers Falls'”but for me the book’s big beating heart lay in June’s deep bond with her best friend, Hannah. Everything about their friendship, from their unexpected resolution of a potential love triangle to June’s horror and heartbreak at the idea of Hannah crossing the country for college, felt so honest and real. Henry brings the same emotional veracity to June’s relationship with her mom and stepdad: There are no cardboard heroes or villains here, only fully-realized humans with their own histories and heartaches.
A Million Junes is a gorgeous rumination on grief and memory, the fear that we’re destined to lose the people who matter most to us, and all the ways that love makes it safe to let go. Read this one in a hammock under leafy summer trees'”preferably with a big bowl of Michigan cherries in your lap.
In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O'Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.
Eighteen-year-old Jack 'œJune' O’Donnell doesn't need a better reason than that. She's an O'Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O'Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.
But when Saul Angert, the son of June's father's mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can't seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn't exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.Â
Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it's finally time for her'”and all of the O'Donnells before her'”to let go.
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