Quick book picks for June

Summer is finally here and, more importantly, a whole load of fantastic books are coming out this month. I was spoilt for choice as a number of these are some of the best of 2017 thus far. As ever, I’ve included short descriptions and links to longer reviews in the titles.

  • All The Good Things by Clare Fisher – One of my books of the year so far, this story of a young woman in prison who is trying to remember the good things that have happened in her life alongside the bad is a powerful modern tale of the system failing somebody and a moving assertion that good things can be found anywhere.
  • Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney – A biting and clever novel about a student in Dublin who performs poetry with her best friend and ex-girlfriend, and then the two meet a married couple and get entwined in their life. Witty look at being a twentysomething in great prose.
  • Phone by Will Self – The anarchic, not-for-everyone new book by Will Self, which follows the spy life and long-running affair with a high-ranking soldier of Jonathan De’Ath, aka The Butcher. It mocks espionage, plays around with language and acronyms, and is very darkly satiric.
  • Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel – An emotional YA novel that focuses on grief, positivity, and friendship, whilst being uplifting yet not cloying.
  • A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath – The novel tells the simultaneous stories of a young girl in 80s Ireland who wants to be a boxer, a gynaecologist in 2012 dealing with work pressures and her ill mother, and a girl in Maryland running away after the death of her mother. A fantastic read that depicts finding home and knowing who you are.
  • No Good Deed by John Niven (review to come) – Another darkly comic story, this time about a successful writer who helps out an old friend who is down on his luck—and then finds out the limits of his good deeds. It shows the ups and downs of friendship whilst mocking the upper-middle-classes and their views and lifestyles.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

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.