23528142by Kaui Hart Hemmings
YA Contemporary
2 of 5 stars

Kaui Hart Hemmings burst onto the scene with her debut novel, The Descendants (you may have heard of the film, which garnered considerable Oscar buzz and put Shailene Woodley on the list for “The Divergent Series” movies). The writing is fantastic and I snatched up her next novel, The Possibilities, and it was nearly as good as the first one. It was a bit darker, but still had the prose I loved. Juniors is her YA debut, and unfortunately, this is her weakest book.

Part of my issue was the jacket copy—this wasn’t about fitting in as part Hawaiian/part Mainlander at all. This was entirely focused on social classes—namely Lea’s upper middle class life and her experience living on a millionaire’s estate for most of her junior year of high school. I’m always curious about other cultures and how they have to bump up against each other these days, but Lea’s constant (and I mean constant) attitude regarding the mostly-rich vs. the extremely rich was exhausting. Lea spends the novel wishing she had more money and a different personality, and in the end she ends up staying exactly the same. I just didn’t enjoy spending all that time in her head.

There’s an attempt at female friendship (after the typical catty back-stabbing and gossiping) that falls flat. There are a few observations about social quirks and some insight into life on Oahu, but overall this felt like the author’s cathartic (but largely unrelatable) project about her high school experience. This reads like a Hawaiian version of The OC or something, and it’s just not my cup of tea. I just don’t enjoy drama for drama’s sake.

None of this means the writing isn’t good—as usual she makes excellent choices with her sparse descriptions and dialogue—but I’ll be more cautious about her next book, especially if it’s YA. Juniors has been optioned by director Jason Reitman.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Juniors is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces | To Live a Thousand Lives
  2. Eve Messenger
    Nov 06, 2015 @ 22:45:31

    I appreciate attempts at genuine female friendship in novels. Leigh Bardugo accomplished it pretty well in Six of Crows.



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