Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel: Review

Thanks to Penguin Random House at Netgalley for allowing me to read this gorgeous book for free (in exchange for an honest review)! This book was released by Penguin on June 2nd 2017 and it doesn’t have nearly enough buzz surrounding it. For me it was better than ‘Me Before You’, ‘Everything, Everything’, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, ‘Fangirl’ and other popular bestsellers from overlapping genres and I would definitely recommend giving it a read.

Title: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Author: Julie Israel

Date published: 2nd June 2017

Pages: 352


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.

Let me start by saying I didn’t expect much from this book when I first began reading. I had never heard of Julie Israel, never used Netgalley and had not heard of the book prior to receiving my copy. That being said, I’m so glad I stumbled upon this little gem and it completely outdid all of my expectations.

The story centres around a girl named Juniper Lemon and this lost index card (65). Juniper (in memory of her recently lost sister) writes a number for each day on an index card – a sort of indication of how she rated the day. 65 days after her sister’s passing Juniper loses index card 65 whilst at school and her journey begins with the simple task of finding it. Initially the book reminded me of Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell) in terms of its tone and voice but it quickly became clear that this was more than just a coming of age story. Israel opens up a whole complex and compelling narrative from simply a lost card and really makes it into something special. The ‘underdog vibe’ and diversity of high school characters (the typical bad boy, renowned nerd, new kid and bitchy female bully) kind of toys with the line of being cliché but most of the characters are actually explored beyond that surface level and, ultimately, Israel balances this out really well.  

I really liked the way she introduced characters in such a natural way (despite the circumstances under which some of them meet). In particular the friendships between Juniper and the characters she bonds with because of Camilla are simply beautiful. I loved the individuality she gave her characters and Kody and Camilla were the kind of believable, ridiculous friends one really hopes to have in high school. There were moments with them where she (Juniper) suddenly seems to relax and recover a part of herself and that was wonderful to read.  I often read parts on the brink of happy tears (though the rest were definitely sad ones.) It really deals with loss in a clever way by telling us of its unbearable qualities and difficulties and sneaking in the positives gently so we actually perceive Juniper’s healing.

The ‘You’ aspect keeps the narrative from stagnating and as I was reading I was a little conflicted that this might take away from the message. Pleasantly, I was wrong and Israel expertly kept the thread from swinging too far away from her harrowing and important subject matter; the ending is perfectly nuanced to both celebrate Camilla’s life but also to bring closure to Juniper’s. Throughout the book she expertly weaves humour and grief together. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms and this little book has so much to teach about love, loss and understanding. It was beautiful to read and actually, I believe, almost restorative. Sometimes it was simply the way Israel talked about grief that had me brimming with tears; and it’s such a realistic demonstration of it. Grief affects people not just when something directly related happens but during the everyday moments in which the person lost is absent. This book really made me feel that.

It also was a nice sized book from a casual reader’s standpoint. It didn’t take too long to read and left me feeling bookishly satisfied. The only real thing I was disappointed by was my own choice to read a digital copy! Both covers (US and UK) are so cute and would’ve made gorgeous #Bookstagram pictures!

But anyway, it was a thoroughly good read and I’m glad it came into my life.



4 out of 5

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If you liked ‘Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index’  try ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell

If you have any other suggestions or insights feel free to message me or leave them in the comments section below!

– Cat –

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