Title: Junonia
Author: Kevin Henkes
ISBN: 9780061964183
Pages: 176 pages
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2011.

“Kate has a new boyfriend with a daughter. They’re all coming. Kate called the office, and she reserved Helen Blair’s cottage.”
“That Kate,” said Alice’s father. “She’s always good for a surprise.”
“The girl is named Mallory,” Alice’s mother told them. “She’s six.” She paused. “Kate sounds happy. Oh, and his name is Ted.”
Alice blinked back tears.
Colin, Chad, and Heather. Gone.
Helen Blair. Gone.
Kate. Aunt Kate. Not gone, but nearly as awful. Coming with a boyfriend and his daughter.
Kate was the closest thing Alice had to a relative. It would be different this year. Every other year, Kate had stayed with Alice’s family in their pink cottage, sleeping on the sofa in the living room. Every other year, Alice had had Kate to herself; she hadn’t had to share her with anyone except her parents.
The doughnut turned to dirt in Alice’s mouth. (29-30)

Alice is spending her tenth birthday in Florida with her parents, just like they have for the last couple years. Looking forward to some time in the cottage they always stay at and playing with their vacation friends, Alice is frustrated by the changes that have come with their arrival. The family of three kids didn’t make it, the old couple next door seem even older than she remembered, and her “Aunt” Kate has brought her boyfriend and his six-year-old daughter Mallory. Trying to make the best of it, Alice spends her time searching the beach for a perfect example of her favorite shell, a rare junonia. Buying it from the shell shop is out of the question, because that would be cheating. But is her search just setting her up for more disappointment as she struggles to deal with all the changes?

I remember previously reading Kevin Henkes’ Protecting Marie when I was younger, but I haven’t really read a lot of his works. This kind of reminded me why, as most of the action is the internalized angst that Alice feels. She is excited about turning ten, but receives a rude awakening that she’s not the only one who is growing older or the only thing that changes with time. She faces the hard lesson that things change and most of the time you can’t stop things from changing. I don’t know how many children would enjoy the introspective nature of the novel, but it’s good to have these mixed in amongst all the action-packed fantasy and adventure novels that are so prevalent lately. I can picture this being a beach read for some young girl, slowly being savored as the tides roll in and out, creating an impetus to examine the changes approaching the reader’s own life.

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