The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones

Wattpad. May 2020. 304p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781989365168.
Gr 7-10–After getting in trouble for punching a bullying classmate, Ethan, 14, is sent to the small town of Ellison, AL, to stay with his Aunt Clara and Uncle Rob. It is the summer of 1955, and Ethan, whose father is white and mother is Black, grew up in the relatively integrated town of Arcadia, WA, and has never experienced the racism and segregation of the Jim Crow South. Not long after his arrival, he meets Juniper Jones, a flame-haired free spirit (think Anne of Green Gables meets Stargirl) who immediately declares them friends and starts to plan the “invincible” adventures they’ll have. What follows is a sweet, heartwarming account of two friends discovering the innocent pleasures of summer shenanigans: They roll down the steepest hill, climb the tallest tree, and have picnics in the middle of the lake. Despite their budding friendship, the reality of Ethan’s life in the Deep South lurks just outside of their pleasant bubble as small-town racists and a trip to the segregated city of Montgomery jolt him to his core. Striking a lovely balance between exuberant joy and piercing heartbreak, this story will make an impact with many readers. Juniper is a somewhat familiar character type, but the sensitive, well-drawn portrayal of Ethan stands out. His delicate shifting from anger to love to resentment to confusion will linger after reading. The writing is clear and evocative, bringing to life the lush countryside of Alabama in full summer and never veering into melodrama, despite the book’s high emotional content.
VERDICT A gorgeous, memorable story that deserves a place on both school and public library shelves.

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