My Jasper June

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
My Jasper June Book Poster Image
Moving, relatable story of loss, life-changing friendship.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language

Occasional "crap!"; references to pee; a toy is called "the Damn Fart Machine."

Consumerism

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.

What 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.

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What's the story?

MY JASPER JUNE is the tale of an eventful summer in the life of 13-year-old Leah. In the wake of a tragedy the previous summer, everything's changed for her and and her parents, as they find themselves going through the motions of their "normal" lives in a comfortable Atlanta neighborhood and finding it's not really working. Coping with the fact that she and her lifelong friends seem to have nothing in common any more, Leah's not looking forward to summer, but, while hiking in the woods, she meets Jasper, a confident, funny girl about her own age with wild red hair. It's an instant connection, and one that opens Leah's eyes to the fact that other teens have lives very different from hers. Their friendship grows. So do the challenges and dangers.

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.'"

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories that deal with loss and death. Does My Jasper June deal with the experience believably?  Do you think stories like this are helpful to people dealing with their own personal tragedies?

  • Do you have any friends whose lives or family situations are very different from your own? How do you deal with the differences? Do they sometimes make you see situations differently?

  • Have you been to summer camp? Did you like it, or would you rather stay home?

Book details

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For kids who love friendship and stories about emotions

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