Novel: A Million Junes by Emily Henry | Goodreads
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Razorbill
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.
I don’t know exactly what I’d been expecting when I went into A Million Junes. Just a solid, satisfying read with a writing style I’d heard was lovely. Perhaps its most endearing feature to me was its nostalgic quality. Not only in its exploration of memories, but within my own life.
A Million Junes is about a family feud at a Michigan plot of land on which strange things happen — like coywolves stealing shoes, white puffy spheres floating around within the house, June’s parents warning her to stay away from the Angerts. Although her father died a while ago, June still grieves for him actively — more so when she starts reliving memories that cast doubt on how and why he died, how it relates to the curse. When she meets Saul Angert, the brooding but friendly youngest, they start to untangle why exactly they aren’t supposed to be together. Why bad things happen when they do spend time with each other.
A lot about this plot line irritated me, but I loved the story too much to be truly bothered. A lot of the logic about the curse and their family feud seemed too loose, and I wish it had been brought up earlier within the narrative. The romance was a little too much instalove for me to take it seriously (although I loved Saul and June together.) There were some Proper Noun Personification of Ideas that made me roll my eyes. The magical realism was gorgeous but some of the execution fell flat. Like, I wasn’t a huge fan of the resolutions. I think it almost would have been better as a contemporary, or with the curse aspect taken out entirely.
But I loved so much else about it. It’s whimsical.
The settings reminded me exactly of experiences and feelings I’d had in high school, and I didn’t expect to feel so far out while encountering them again. Like I’d let go of something I was about to rediscover. Like when June and Hannah go to the carnival — where they first encounter Saul. The sensations she describes are so similar what my own high school carnival was like, down to the high school dynamic within them, that I loved the scenes wholeheartedly. I’m 19! I shouldn’t be this nostalgic for high school!
A Million Junes has these sparkling insights and lines that make me feel like I’m sitting on the couch talking to a friend I love dearly. The way I want to describe A Million Junes is the way I want to describe someone I enjoy spending time with: funny, nice, has a vivacious personality. Emily Henry is spot on with a “teenage voice” as opposed to a YA voice, which can occasionally be two separate things. She discusses aspects like drinking, family issues, friends teasing in a casual and well-meaning way that feels familiar.
I loved June as a character, although I could see a lot of her flaws. She has a sarcastic but well-meaning banter with Hannah that always made me laugh. Their humor is sharp without bitterness, featuring extensive inside jokes and flashes of a shared past. Some lines had me laughing, too. Reminded me of text posts I’d forward to my best friends. Saul was great too, so I enjoyed just about everyone.
Writing-wise, I did find it beautiful. Some aspects did seem a bit sloppy to me; I dislike too many italics and ellipses, and there were so many of them! It didn’t remove me from the narrative, however, for which I was grateful. Her dialogue was snappy and covered all the bases though. If anything, Henry is most skilled at dialogue. It was pretty hit-or-miss for me, I suppose. Her words have a dreamy quality that reminded me of summer evenings. She captures human and universal situations tucked into a small-town feel I appreciated. It paints a picture of this complicated family history and the tangled romance ahead.
It also had fabulous pacing. I read 200 pages in a given night because I just never felt the need to put it down. With that in mind, I did however think that the first half of the book was significantly better than the first one.
There were a lot of little parts I enjoyed, like:
- That June viciously made fun of Saul’s age (he was a few years older.)
- That June spent a lot of time with her family.
- That June didn’t want to go to college, and it was treated as a valid option.
Emily Henry is skilled, which can’t be denied. Although there were aspects of A Million Junes that I thought could have been better, it made me cry. And I tend to love books that make me cry. If you’re willing to look past the instalove and some of the plot holes, it’s a truly gratifying take on magical realism. I’d also recommend it for folks who love This Adventure Ends for a lot of the reasons I do: warm family, excellent sense of adventure, wittiness, atmosphere.