The Juniper Game by Sherryl Jordan
Plot Summary: Dylan is a nerdy high school student who strikes up a friendship with Juniper, a gorgeous, smart, and popular young woman who seems to have telepathic powers. To top it off, they discover a common interest in medieval history. With this type of rare connection, Dylan is hopelessly in love with her, but Juniper has a boyfriend. She proposes that they experiment with time travel. Her method is based on an Einsteinian theory called the eternal now, which means every period in time and every possible outcome is happening simultaneously. The two friends start working on synchronizing their heart rates and meditating and eventually they start time traveling. At first, the traveling just consists of visions. Then, with more practice and experience, it becomes more real and dangerous. Dylan and Juniper will have to resolve their feelings for each other and not get themselves killed traveling through time.
Critical Analysis: The Juniper Game was enjoyable because Jordan clearly understands that the reader can think critically and process complex information about human emotion and interaction. While some young adult authors write down to their audience, Jordan's prose and story elements are complex but enjoyable. There is some treatment of family problems and other typical teenage problems often seen in young adult books, but it does not burden the story. The Juniper Game is more realistic than the average book that deals with these issues.
I found overall that The Juniper Game was accessible, it is not a difficult read but it doesn’t dumb anything down. The story is enough of a departure from common historical young adult fiction in that it reaches out to a different audience. While some historical fiction books get bogged down in details and historical descriptions, Jordan just lets this serve as a backdrop to the character development and drama. Despite being about medieval history and time travel, it is very much book written for girls.
I also appreciated that the relationship between Dylan and Juniper was believable. I thought that Jordan portrayed teen social interaction in a realistic way. Jordan writes about how even though Juniper has a connection with Dylan, she is different at school and has a popular boyfriend. Everything is not wrapped up nicely. There are issues that both Dylan and Juniper had to get through for their relationship to work and I thought that was a nice change of pace.
Reader’s Annotation: Dylan and Juniper are playing a game involving breathing exercises and meditation. Little do they know it could lead to a harrowing adventure in the past.
Author Information: Sherryl Jordan is an author from New Zealand. She went to school in Iowa for a writing program. She didn't enjoy success until later in her career.
Genre: science fiction, historical fiction
Curriculum Ties: The Juniper Game provides a unique look into medieval history and life and also delves a bit into witchcraft. It could be used as a companion for a history class.
Booktalking Ideas: What challenges do Dylan and Juniper have to overcome to fully realize their relationship?
Compare Juniper and Johanna’s characters. How does it contribute to developing them as people?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12-15
Challenge Issues: underage drinking
Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.
Why I included this title: The Juniper Game is an accessible and high interest title. The characters and relationships are well developed. The book remains a good example that even though a book was written decades ago, it remains relevant. I also thought that it is one of those books that a teen might read then become interested in some of its content and read or research independently about it.