Review: Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Life can be complicated for anyone. Especially during their junior year of high school. Lea Lane, however, might just get the trophy for the most complicated month of junior year. Kaui Hart Hemmings, in her newest book, Juniors, digs back into everyone’s personal horrors of junior year. And somehow she makes it okay in the end.

I began reading this book in December, and then school came along and got in the way. Ironically, I’m in my junior year of high school. Much like Lea Lane is. That’s part of the reason why I picked up this book from the good ‘ol Barnes and Noble. And I wanted a good contemporary novel to help me from my book hangover in fantasy. Well, school finally got pushed out of the way, and Juniors got me out of that book hangover.

The setting of the book and some of the situations Lea Lane, the protagonist, was in were unrelatable due to the vast differences between Wisconsin and Hawaii. The main draw of the book were the characters and their relationships with one another. Lea Lane is shy and reserved at the beginning of the book. While reading the book, the time span of approximately a month, Lea develops subtly outside of the reader’s notice due to all the events surrounding her. Her character has numerous relationships in the book with every character introduced. Very rarely does Hemmings introduce a character’s name without it being important to the story.

Lea’s most important relationship is obviously with her mother. Lea’s mother, an actress with her big break on the way with a new television show set in Hawaii, had a bit of an unrealistic feel for readers. She would have deep moments where readers could connect with her past, present, and hopes for the future, but when it came to grounding her daughter she was quite lenient. As the book went on and Lea got into more bad situations, her mom became more lenient. Really though, her character does develop and progress. Just like in Lea’s case, it’s subtle.

The West family is where the trouble lies with the characters. Will is the biggest jerk in the entire world of literature. He appears to be the jock, the popular one, the guy that every girl falls for. And he is. But that is about all that he is. There are moments, through Lea’s eyes, where readers begin to fall in love with his character. The ending of the book, though, wraps all that up in a little box and throws it out into the great Pacific Ocean where Hawaii sits. Will’s mother, Melanie West, is right there alongside him as well. I was never really fooled by her whole nice act, just as I’m sure others weren’t as well. Her ending character didn’t really surprise me because I saw her as being a static character.

Eddie West I loved from the beginning of the book all the way to the end. He has early onset Alzheimer, and while everyone wants to act like he’s okay and everything is fine, he’s just having a freaking ball and laughing. Laughing at the Alzheimer, laughing at his family, laughing at the whole situation. He makes jokes, he makes Lea feel like his own daughter, and he makes me feel like I was a part of the story. His character was probably the most realistic out of all of them. I wish he had gotten more story time, but I also wish he would just stay the same. The way he was written made the story so perfect. It made me sad a little that Eddie ended up with Melanie in marriage, but it’s what introduced us to Whitney.

Whitney’s character was a very realistic teenage girl in high school. She was back and forth all over the place, and that’s real life. As a reader, it’s annoying while reading the story with characters like that. But taking that step back and relating it to reality makes you realize how accurate the character actually is. The ending for Whitney and Lea’s relationship was a bit cheesy. It made me laugh though when the characters actually said how cheesy the ending was.

Overall, I feel like the book just touched the surface of all of the issues presented in the story. If it had gotten even a foot deeper into the issues, I would have given it five stars for sure. It wasn’t completely shallow, but it could have gone deeper. I’m going to keep my eye out for Hemmings’ next young adult novel because I am intrigued. Perhaps she’ll even write a “Seniors” to get me through senior year.

 

Much love, XOXO,

~A Writer Named Charley~

 

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