Friday, October 2, 2015

Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Title: Juniors
Author: Kaui Hart Hemmings
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Lea Lane has lived in between all her life.

Part Hawaiian, part Mainlander. Perpetual new girl at school. Hanging in the shadow of her actress mother’s spotlight. And now: new resident of the prominent West family’s guest cottage.

Bracing herself for the embarrassment of being her classmates’ latest charity case, Lea is surprised when she starts becoming friends with Will and Whitney West instead—or in the case of gorgeous, unattainable Will, possibly even more than friends. And despite their differences, Whitney and Lea have a lot in common: both are navigating a tangled web of relationships, past disappointments and future hopes. As things heat up with Will, and her friendship with Whitney deepens, Lea has to decide how much she’s willing to change in order to fit into their world.

Lea Lane has lived in between all her life. But it isn’t until her junior year that she learns how to do it on her own terms.

As much as I loved the movie The Descendants, I hadn’t read any of Kaui Hart Hemmings’s books. But then I heard about Juniors and I my curiosity was piqued. This book sounded like it had my name written all over it. And after having read it, I can say that it’s totally true.

All Lea Lane has ever wanted was to fit in. But constantly being the new girl at school doesn’t make it easy. Neither does having an actress for a mother. Fitting in is made all the more difficult when Lea and her mom move into the West family’s guest cottage. Being seen as a charity case is the last thing she wants, but there are some definite perks to living in the cottage. Like becoming friends with Whitney and spending time with Will, her older brother. Lea is the first to be surprised by how easily she gets along with the West siblings. But the more time she spends with them, the more Lea realizes that to stay in this world, she’s going to have to make some changes. But are those changes she’s willing to make?

Juniors was the first (and only) book by Kaui Hart Hemmings that I’ve read. Despite having loved the movie The Descendants and knowing it was based on a book she wrote, I just never got around to reading one of her books. But if I’m not mistaken, Juniors is also her first young adult title (but I could be completely wrong) so that might also be why. All that to say that when I first heard about Juniors I just knew that it was something that I would enjoy. And reading the synopsis, it also kind of reminded me of Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot which I loved last year. Basically, Juniors had all the makings of a book I would love. And for the most part, I totally loved Juniors. And it made me want to go to Hawaii, but that’s not the point right now. I loved this story of figuring out just who you are and where you fit in in the world. I loved that there was such a strong focus on friendship. Where it kind of lost me, was on the romance. It’s not that there wasn’t romance, because there was. It was more that the romance wasn’t really what I thought and later hoped it would be. At one point, I was even a little confused as to who I wanted Lea to be with because it felt like she should be with one person but was putting all her efforts into being with someone else. So I was a little confused on the romance, but it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the story. Which romance aside, I loved.

It took me a little bit to warm up to Lea. It’s not that I didn’t like her right from the start because I did. It was more that it took me a few chapters to get used to her way of telling her story. Once that happened, I was totally on board with Lea and I understood a lot of her concerns. It’s concerns that ultimately everyone has. And I loved seeing Lea growth over the course of the story: seeing her go from someone who was constantly worried about fitting in to someone who was comfortable being who she was. That doesn’t mean that I always agreed with the way she handled things, and that was definitely true when it came to her relationships. I loved seeing her friendship with Whitney develop, and I was hoping that she would find a way to make everything right where that friendship was concerned. And then there was Will and Danny and they’re who I was talking about when I said that the romance kind of lost me. Right from the moment she first mentioned Danny, I knew that that was who Lea belonged with. And then I saw them together and that just reaffirmed that thought. But then she became so focused on Will and I liked Will but there was just always something that felt off about him. But by the end of Juniors, I was happy with the end result. It just took a bit to get there.

Even though it wasn’t entirely was I expected it would be, Kaui Hart Hemmings’s Juniors was still totally my kind of book. It was a slower and quieter story about finding yourself and finding where you belong and it was totally worth the read. Fair warning, though, this book will make you want to hop on a plane to Hawaii.

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