In the small midwestern town of Five Fingers, everybody knows about the bad blood between the O’Donnells and the Angerts. The legendary feud goes back generations, but ask a hundred people what started it and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Living amid the feud are Jack “Junior” O’Donnell IV (aka June) and Saul Angert, star-crossed lovers whose lives are cursed by their families’ sins.
Recently, I’ve been getting more into magical realism. I love the idea that a world as mundane as the one we live in could be peppered with these little bits of magic. That one minute you can be doing your homework at the kitchen table and the next you could be floating around in a different world or communing with the dead. When it’s done right, magical realism is a wonderful escape from everyday life.
And here, I’d say that Emily Henry did it right. This was my first book by her – I missed her much-discussed debut novel, The Love That Split the World – but it’s obvious that she knows what she’s doing. She can spin a story and write beautiful, flowing prose. She can throw around twists and turns and conflicts and resolutions while keeping me begging for more.
I loved Henry’s characters. It was wonderful to read about a YA character who isn’t dazzlingly beautiful, innately charming, and freakishly smart. June is a normal girl who is cute enough, has her witty moments, and could probably do better in school if she put in a little more effort. She’s not a supergenius supermodel charming the pants off everybody within a ten-mile radius, and that was so refreshing.
Similarly, Saul isn’t perfect, either. Although he is beautiful and book smart, he’s not quite sure what he’s doing with his life. Disillusioned with college life, he’s just kind of hanging out in his hometown until he gets his bearings. Despite their differences (and the whole feud thing), June and Saul blended together so perfectly.
Keeping this book from a full five stars is the fact that:
(1) it can get a little confusing and convoluted, to the point where I had no idea what was going on for pages at a time, and
(2) it drags a bit in the second half as the story starts to focus more on the past than the present.
But still, the book is beautifully written and I’m happy to have read it. Emily Henry’s career as an author is only just taking off. I can’t wait to see what direction she goes in next.
Final rating: 3.5 stars, rounded up to ★★★★☆