For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.
Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may 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.
As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now 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 the O’Donnells before her—to let go.
Title: A Million Junes
Author: Emily Henry
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Number of Pages: 350
Publishing Date: May 16th, 2017
The classic saying is, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And, metaphorically, that’s obviously true. We should never judge something’s core by its outer appearance. But when it comes to actual books… we all do it at one point or another. That’s exactly what I used to do when I was trying to figure out which book to read next. Whether or not it was right for me to pick my next read based on its cover, I used to just pick the prettiest book and hope it would amaze me. Through trial and error I came to the conclusion that my method of reading had no real pattern; some books proved to be just as gorgeous as their outer layers while others just… didn’t. Around that time was when I discovered the magic of Goodreads and book reviews, so I decided to stick with picking the books that I wanted to read next based on the information I knew about them rather than how much I fell in love with their covers.
A Million Junes is an exception to the rule that I made for myself.
I’m going to be honest — I bought this novel not only because I really enjoyed Henry’s previous novel, The Love That Split the World, but also because the cover of A Million Junes is absolutely, gorgeously stunning and it caught my eye as soon as I saw it whilst online book shopping. And, soon enough, I had ordered a copy and it arrived at my doorstep soon after. I knew nothing about the story except for the fact that this book was inspired by Romeo and Juliet and that was enough for me (I’m always yearning for young adult books inspired by Shakespeare). One of the challenges for BooktubeAThon a couple of weeks ago was to read a book that you bought because of the cover, so, naturally, I chose A Million Junes for the readathon and hoped that the inner textual contents would emulate its cover by being beautiful, magical, and whimsical. Needless to say, this novel is all of those things and more.
The rest of this review is spoiler-free.
I read the majority of this novel in one wide-awake-and-crying-at-2am sitting. The plot gripped me from the very beginning and I was immediately enticed because I wanted to know more about the O’Donnells, the Angerts, and the generational rivalry between these two feuding families. The feeling of the story varied through every chapter. Some moments felt strange and dark and magical while others felt completely real and relatable. But no matter where the plot of this book went, I was fully captured inside of it. There were elements of magical realism that fascinated me (which is surprising considering the fact that I’m usually not a big fan of magical realism at all), there were settings that were described so eloquently that I could picture them in my mind perfectly, and there were twist and turns that made this story addictive.
The buzzing I felt back at the gatehouse swells within me now. It’s not a hornet or a bit of darkness circling me. It’s everywhere, everything. It’s Saul Angert. Saul Angert, and that fact that he shouldn’t be there.
And that I definitely shouldn’t be here with him.”
The characters in this story are what make it feel alive. The main character, Jack “June” O’Donnell IV, is such an amazing narrator. She is witty, determined, funny, and daring, and the personality that flowed within her dialogue and practically bounced off of the pages was everything. A large chunk of this novel is focused upon the grief that June feels after her father dies and her thoughts toward the future. Her feelings and her emotional reactions to those feelings were written so well (I’m going to touch on those themes later because they are a huge part of why I loved this book so much). And then we have Saul, whose character is just as brilliantly put together as June’s character. I fell in love with Saul as soon as he was introduced into the story and the romance that developed between him and June was not-too-fast-but-not-too-slow and I loved it so much. The banter between them was insanely good and the dialogue they had was so natural and realistic. One of my favorite romance tropes is forbidden romances when they’re done right and this romance was done so right. The chemistry between Saul and June is obvious and I quickly fell in love with the mere idea of them falling in love with each other.
“Maybe for some people, falling in love is an explosion, fireworks against a black sky and tremors rumbling through the earth. One blazing moment. For me, it’s been happening for months, as quietly as a seed sprouting. Love sneaked through me, spreading roots around my heart, until, in the blink of an eye, the green of it broke the dirt: hidden one moment, there the next.”
Romance wasn’t the only type of relationship done right in this novel; friendship was, too. All too often in young adult novels are side characters forgotten about or never developed enough, but the other characters within this novel are present and they actually gave more meaning to the story itself. One of my favorite characters was June’s best friend, Hannah. She added so much to this book and I loved the friendship that she and June shared. They were supportive of each other and they cared about each other so deeply. It was really nice to find a friendship in a YA book that is healthy and full of love.
Grief, love, family, friends, and the future were ongoing themes in this book and they were written about perfectly. I don’t think I can properly express how much I appreciated the themes that were present within this book because I connected with them so utterly much. Throughout the past few years of my life I’ve personally experienced the same types of grief that June dealt with, so this novel resonated with me. There were particular passages that revolved around grief that had me awestruck because of how raw and honest and poignant they were. I related to June’s pain, grief, regret, questioning, responsibility, hurt, love, and everything in between. I sometimes like to think of books that readers are able to deeply relate to as mirrors to the reader’s mind, thoughts, heart, and soul, and this novel was a mirror that reflected the many emotions that I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with in regards to grief and feelings about the future. Reading about the love that can exist between a father and his daughter (even after a tragedy separates them) is something that never fails to make me emotional and nostalgic, but the way this author described that love turned me into a blubbering mess of emotions (especially near the end of the novel). And, oh, that last chapter? I basically melted into a puddle of tears and tissue reading that.
“Grief is an unfillable hole in your body. It should be weightless, but it’s heavy. Should be cold, but it burns. Should, over time, close up, but instead it deepens.”
The writing style within this novel is enchanting. And magical. And whimsical. And metaphorical. Emily Henry most definitely has a way with words because her writing captivates me. From her descriptions to her settings to her characters to her dialogue, everything just feels so real. I plan on reading anything and everything she writes in the future purely because of the vivid, dreamy style of writing that she displayed within this novel and The Love That Split the World.
“I promise you. I promise you the stars. I promise you the lake and falls, coywolves and robins. I promise earth and heaven: I will love you long after the last human has taken his last breath. When the stars burn out and the oceans freeze over and the whole world is ash and dust and ice, our names will still be carved into this tree of life, side by side, and I’ll still be loving you.”
Overall, this is a beautiful story that I’ve grown to love deeply for so many personal reasons. Perhaps not everyone will love this novel as much as I do, but that’s okay. I think that everyone loves novels for certain reasons and, for me personally, I’m able to connect with this story in particular on a level that I didn’t think I ever would. So, with all of that being said, read this book. Turn on some acoustic background music, get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, curl up in bed with a warm blanket, and read this wondrous book. Maybe you won’t connect to certain themes within this novel as much as I was able to or maybe it will be a mirror for you like it was for me. Either way, I hope you adore this book as much as I do.
So, have you read A Million Junes? What did you think about it? Comment below and let me know what your thoughts are regarding this novel!