Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel – Penguin – Published 1 June 2017




It’s been sixty-five painful days since the death of Juniper’s big sister, Camilla. On her first day back at school, bracing herself for the stares and whispers, Juniper borrows Camie’s handbag for luck – and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It’s mysteriously addressed to ‘You’ and dated July 4th – the day of Camie’s accident. Desperate to learn the identity of Camie’s secret love, Juniper starts to investigate.

But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index: little notecards on which she rates the day. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie’s death – but without this card, there’s a hole. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own secret: a memory that she can’t let anyone else find out.

My thoughts

A beautifully written contemporary, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is the perfect book for readers who enjoy moving stories about grief, romance against the odds, strong friendships, and the daily rituals that get us through all of the above.

Juniper Lemon writes down everything she liked or disliked about her day in her happiness index. It’s something her older sister Camilla suggested and she can’t let the habit go, especially now that there are already so many holes in her life left void after Camilla’s sudden death. So, trying to think of a few things that made her happy gets Juniper through the day. But when she loses one of her index cards, her journey to find it will have her encounter (in no particular order): a whole lot of smelly garbage, a secret letter from her sister, three amazing new friends, a variety of secret notes and letters discarded by her classmates, a boy who is definitely hiding something, and memories of her sister in the most unexpected of places.

This truly was a beautiful story, so easy to read and enjoy. Juniper is a reliable narrator and it was easy to join in her journey of grief, love, acceptance, and new-found friendships. The chapters are all written from Juniper’s perspective, with a few additional entries from her happiness index or her notes. Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, touches on many important issues, particular the grieving process. As Juniper comments, it sometimes doesn’t feel like a step-by-step, neatly ordered process, instead a wildly revolving serious of emotions. Friendship also plays a large role in this book and demonstrates how strong and caring friendships can offer so much support. The secondary characters in this book are well-developed and introduce their own variety of issues and themes, just as important as the grief with which Juniper is dealing, encouraging Juniper (and the reader) to look past first impressions and search beneath the surface.

Despite the topics of grief and Juniper’s focus on the recent death of her sister, this is an uplifting book, more conducive to happy tears than sad tears.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Grief, sisters, death, happiness, friendship, art, high school,

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (30), sh** (27), sl** (2).

Published:  1 June 2017 by Penguin

Format: Paperback, ebook. 388 pages.

ISBN: 9780141376424

Find it on Goodreads


  1. kozbisa

    I love grief books. I have been wanting to check this book out, but reviews have been few and quite mixed. This one is making me lean towards reading it, since you point out so many things I like in a book. Great review!

    • Madison's Library

      It is so worth reading. I loved it and our library readers are really enjoying it, too.

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