Word Spelunking

Juniper Berry - M.P. Kozlowsky, Erwin Madrid Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky blew me away with how unexpectantly awesome and enthralling it turned out to be. It has all the elements I love in middle grade fiction: a captivatingly original and exciting premise, a quirky, unforgettable heroine, a truly scary villain and a whimsical darkness.Juniper Berry used to have a great life: a cozy home, friends, and two adoring parents. But when her struggling actor parents suddenly get all the fame and success they ever wanted, everything changes. Especially them. Juniper’s once loving parents barely remember she exist and when they do interact with her they’re hurtful and selfish. Juniper is forced to stay on their massive property, not allowed to venture outside the big golden gates; her only daily interaction is with her fangirl tutor and Kitty, Juniper’s beloved dog. But then she meets Giles, her closest neighbor, whose own parents have suddenly started to act not right. The two discover a magical tree that leads them to a sinister being that has made their parents a pricey deal they couldn’t refuse. It’s up to the intrepid Juniper to save her parents and herself.Juniper Berry took me on a deliciously dark, delightfully eerie and surprising journey. I love when MG authors aren’t afraid to infuse their stories with a bit of genuine scariness and spine-tingling creepiness, and Kozlowsky does this with perfect doses of each. Reminiscent of Coraline and A Series of Unfortunate Events, this book has that fantastical mix of fanciful darkness, enchanting settings and excitement.Highly imaginative and original, the story is addicting and hard to put down. Kozlowsky’s writing is quite beautiful and lyrical: feels timeless, yet refreshing at the same time. The author creates a tangible world that shimmers and shines right off the page and into the readers’ imagination. The story has a fairytale-esque quality to it that is equal parts stunning and startling.Juniper is a compelling and layered heroine, with her quirkiness, resourcefulness, strength and courage. I love that she isn’t addicted to the internet, video games or tv like other tweens; instead she loves to write, read and explore the world around her. Giles makes for an endearing and likable sidekick, while Kitty is just as quirky as his owner. Skeksyl, the frightening and sinister villain, is truly fantastic! This is a villain that readers will be charmed and chilled by.Skeksyl’s magical world is absolutely breathtaking! There’s a dreamlike outer space scene that is gorgeously written and crafted. As eerie and forbidding as Skeksyl’s world is, it also has an electric and captivating pull on both Juniper and readers.The book’s conclusion offers readers the heartwarming happy ending that they will crave, without being cheesy or rushed. I must mention the drawings done by Erwin Madrid because they are fabulous and they perfectly capture Kozlowsky’s world! The one on page 202 is especially beautiful.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: This MG book has it all- magic, thrills, a scary villain, an irresistible heroine, and a whimsically dark world. An absolute MUST read!

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