Honest June by Tina Wells, Brittany Bond (Illustrator)

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Honest June

Author: Tina Wells, Brittney Bond (Illustrator)

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Black MC with Anxiety, Black and BIPOC side characters

Recommended For…: middle grade readers, contemporary, magical realism

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Genre: MG Contemporary Magical Realism

Recommended Age: 10+ (Bullying, Religion, Panic attack, anxiety, Disordered eating, Racism)

Explanation of CWs: There is bullying shown in the book. There is some religion mentioned and church going mentioned as well. There are two scenes with panic attacks shown. Anxiety is mentioned and shown. There is disordered eating shown in one scene, in which the father is inadvertently instilling it into the main character. There is also some racism mentioned as a past event and not to the main character, not shown.

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Pages: 240

Synopsis: June Jackson is an expert at exceeding people’s expectations. She can’t help it; she’s a people-pleaser! She’ll do everything she can to be the perfect student, daughter, and friend, even if it means ignoring her own feelings sometimes. Cue Victoria, June’s secret fairy godmother, who blesses June with the ability to never tell a lie in the hopes that June will finally be honest with her loved ones. Instead of telling them the truth to their faces, June turns to a secret online blog–the only place she can write out her true feelings without hurting people.

When all of her responsibilities start to pile on–field hockey, the school paper, family responsibility, her friends–June begins feeling so overwhelmed that sometimes it feels hard to breathe. Not to mention June is desperately trying to figure out how to overthrow the spell at the same time! When the pressures reach new heights, will Honest June finally be able to break free and tell whole truth and nothing but?

Review: This is probably one of my favorite middle grade books of 2021! I absolutely loved the magical realism of this book (it’s small, but there) and I loved how the book normalized puberty and normalized stress. Stress is oftentimes treated as an unspoken concern in kids books, but this one tackled it head on. The book did well to highlight issues in the education system currently. It’s really sad how far the education system has gone to where 6th graders are now thinking about college applications. Kids have enough pressure as is these days and school clubs and sports should be something they want to join for fun instead of something that they feel like they have to do in order to get into a good college. I also want to commend the author on making parents in a kids book that make mistakes. While I felt like punching the parents for my cinnamon role/main character June, I also only felt that way because the author wrote the book so well. No parent should be making their child feel inadequate or stressed because of college that’s like at least 6 years away. The father in particular made me angry because he was taking the college issue too far, completely eliminating June’s choice and wants and desires, and going into a total control spree where, at one point in the novel, he was trying to control what his daughter eats and that leads to disordered eating. The characters are well developed, the world building is well done, and the story is wonderfully well written. The plot is also sound and the pacing is spot on. The book is also illustrated and is based in Atlanta!

The only real issues I had with the book is how the parents were written and how the author allowed them to punish the daughter after she finally told the truth about how she felt. The way that it was done in the book could make kids believe that they’ll be punished anyways for telling the truth. It should have been gone about a different way so kids reading the book would feel better about telling the truth to their parents. However, most of the blame is on the parents in the book and I hope that parents who read this book take notes from it.

Verdict: An absolutely well done book and a highly recommend from me!

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