I think i got recommended this book after reading something by Nova Ren Sum…and Emily Henry definitely has that super-emotional, strong sense of young adult narrative voice mixed with some magical realim (although A Million Junes definitely crosses the literary fence from “magical realism” to “straight up fantasy” at the end) that I love about Nova Ren Sum..and Alice Hoffman for that matter. It evokes the same feelings as reading The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore although its more solidly and realistically based in today’s world then Weight of Feathers.
A Million Junes is the story of two feuding families in the small Michigan town of Five Fingers Lakes. Generations ago, the first Jack O’Donnell came to a small hill in Five Fingers, planted a cherry tree, and then leased the land from the Angerts. Somehow, the cherries are more than just a tasty fruit, and somehow, the Angerts and the O’Donnells began feuding so hard that in present day, the current Jack O’Donnell (fourth of that name) has only two rules to follow: Stay away from Angerts and stay away from the Falls.
But the current Jack O’Donnell, female and sometimes called June, is about to find out the truth behind the bad blood between families, the white floaties that appear in her house’s window, and the eery, scary dark shadow that only shows up when something terrible is about to happen to the families…and its back.
Also back in town is Saul Angert, who June tries to avoid, but is forced into proximity in a carnival fun house because her best friend has a crush. And soon she finds she cannot resist the pull towards Saul, both attraction and need to find out the truth.
Sigh. Oh this book. It was lovely. The writing is lyrical in parts “a whole forest went from saplings to towering redwoods in my chest at the sight of him” etc. etc. The mystery of the families’ curse pleasingly hinted at and strung out until the cataclysmic end. The best friends give great snarky banter and healthy emotional support, and the romance is sweet and touchingly forbidden. June gets to discover writing and its cathartic properties as well as to imagine herself as an adult.
The end gets a bit whacky when the magical realism morphs into magic to show us the reasons behind the feud….but I forgave that because it was all based within the emotional themes of love and letting go and grief.
And this book is mostly about grief, and the ways it twists us and the ways it blinds us to what we have.
This is a lovely, engrossing story from the first page and I loved June’s voice. This is a standalone, but it impressed me so much I already ordered another Emily Henry book, but I wonder now if I shouldn’t put it on the back burner, because A Million Junes is one of those books you savor and come back to in your mind, considering your own griefs and loves.