Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is a moving YA novel about loss and friendship, about having secrets and knowing what to do with other people’s. Juniper Lemon is lost without her older sister Camilla. She writes a daily Happiness Index in her sister’s memory and doesn’t know how to get through to her grieving parents. When she discovers a mysterious letter written by her sister to “You” on the day of her death, Juniper starts on a path to try and solve this mystery, protect her own secrets, and find a way of keeping Camilla close as the days keep going on.
The novel has a vibrant cast of characters, following Juniper as she makes new friends and deals with old relationships in the light of recent tragedy. The way in which Juniper realises she has brought people together around her is particularly powerful and leaves a lasting message about the importance of connecting with other people even—and especially—when terrible things have occurred. The mysteries and secrets unfold in a satisfying way whilst all being relatable issues and ideas to a teenage audience and there is a wealth of understated detail, but it is the characters who really shine through and their emotions are what makes the book important. In particular, the highlighting of different points of view—how thinking you’re helping somebody might not actually be the help they need, for example—is significant, showing how Juniper’s actions are well-meaning but can have negative consequences too.
Uplifting yet not cloying, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index will appeal to anyone who enjoys YA books that balance friendship, love, and serious issues, with a tinge of mystery and ambiguity.