A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Leah's family is Jewish, and readers will learn a bit about Jewish celebrations, customs, and practices. A Leonard Cohen song becomes important to the characters.
Much of the story involves a struggle over when to keep a secret and when to ask for help -- even when that means breaking a promise. Strong messages about friendship, family, supporting one another in hard times, and being open to some creative problem-solving. Also of dealing with survivor's (and other) guilt in the wake of a tragic loss and finding ways to go on and do good things.
Positive Role Models
The strong friendship of Leah and Jasper gives them both strength, courage, and empathy, but also unexpected challenges. Thirteen-year-old Leah and her parents have been pretty much adrift and wounded for the past year in the wake of their loss. Leah does a number of potentially dangerous, rule-breaking things like sneak out of her house and through the woods in the dead of night to help her friend. She and Jasper spend an afternoon going through pockets and purses in a thrift shop and gathering left-behind cash.
Violence & Scariness
A character's sister is married to a man who beats her, and the teen character flees their house. The tragic death of a child casts a long shadow of grief and guilt. A homeless man Leah meets is carrying a gun. A cat keeps presenting Leah with dead mice, who keep recovering and getting away.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Leah recalls her former best friend's mom helping her out when she got her first period at a neighborhood gathering. After Leah sneaks out at night to hang out with Jasper, her mom demands to know whether they're having sex (with boys or each other), or drinking and doing drugs, to which Leah says, "Mom! I'm thirteen!" When she channel-surfs onto a dreamily lit Field of Dreams, she thinks the two male protagonists are in love.
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Occasional "crap!"; references to pee; a toy is called "the Damn Fart Machine."
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Products & Purchases
Occasional context-establishing mention of real brand names, e.g. Frisbee, Publix, Froot Loops, plus lots of kids' books, like Harry Potter.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Most parents in the story are social drinkers, and while some of them get a bit giggly they don't drink to excess. One girl's mom, who does not appear in the story but is a strong force, is such an out-of-control alcoholic she lost custody. Leah is scared by a homeless man she meets in the woods, who's drinking from a bottle of liquor.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there's a lot of heavy stuff happening in Laurel Snyder's My Jasper June, including loss, depression, homelessness, and the ripple effects of alcoholism and domestic violence, as well as dicey doings like sneaking out of the house at night. But there's also a lot of heart, empathy, and hard-earned wisdom. In the wake of a family tragedy, 13-year-old Leah and her family are adrift and dysfunctional, and the story involves her growing friendship with new girl Jasper, the bumps in their relationship, and the building trust between them that could help them both heal -- or wreck everything beyond repair. Adults are mostly social drinkers, though one character has been traumatized by an alcoholic parent. Occasional use of "crap" and references to farts and pee.
Is It Any Good?
There's a lot to love in Laurel Snyder's story of the life-changing friendship of two Atlanta teens coping with very different, serious challenges. My Jasper June finds Leah adrift, angry, and relatable as her old life falls apart; new friend Jasper's dealing with her own traumas and perils. When they find each other, readers will cheer their friendship and the healing it brings -- while also worrying what will happen when Leah and Jasper's small world collides with the big one.
"'The thing is...,' I said, 'when it happens, death, people actually stop making eye contact with you. Did you know that? Your friends, even your best friends. Like with (my former best friend)... It wasn't like she wanted to ditch me. I don't think she meant to do it. It was just like she didn't know how to talk to me anymore. After being friends all our lives. Nobody did.'"
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.