Juniper Berry is a delightfully creepy read that in many ways feels like a modern day fairy tale. It’s not a fluffy, light, sparkles and wings fairy tale. It is a story where you worry what is happening just out of sight, a story where the supernatural is sinister.
Juniper Berry lives what might seem like a dream life. Her parents are famous stars. She lives in a huge, rambling house with a built-in theater. The grounds around the house are sprawling. Juniper doesn’t have to go to school because a tutor comes to see her.
Her life, however, is far from perfect. Something seems wrong about her parents. Where they used to act out stories with her, read the scripts she wrote with delight, and share theme family dinners, they are now immersed completely in themselves. There’s always a practice to go to, a review to read, people to belittle, things to find fault with and work to do. Juniper’s under foot and under appreciated. Her mother starts to sound like a caricature for every self absorbed actress that ever existed, all worry that is being seen as finished or too old. Her father worries that he can’t carry a character well enough. They seem hollow, empty, as if they are not the same people at all.
One day while outside with her dog Kitty, Juniper meets Giles. He’s a boy that seems every bit as lonely as herself. His parents are famous musicians who seem to be acting in much the same manner as Jupiter’s. He reports his parents leaving the house at odd times and vanishing near a particular tree on the property. Juniper also finds poetry in her father’s hand that doesn’t sound like him at all, poetry that says “I don’t know myself.” Then there are the times she catches her parents coughing, limping, and acting infirm.
Worried, Juniper and Giles go to the tree and descend into the area below. There they meet Skeksel, a creature with far too many teeth. He watches the area above with the aid of a raven named Neptune. Skeksel claims to be a friend of their parents, to be able to offer the two kids far more than the safe return of their parents. He claims to offer them their greatest dreams. He gives them a taste of what this would be like before offering it for real. What would their dreams cost? A balloon. For a balloon filled with their breath, Skeksel gives them a balloon to breath filled with their dream. Giles accepts the deal while Juniper refuses.
Now Juniper has to worry what will happen to her new friend as well as their parents. She doesn’t know how to lessen Skeksel’s hold or where to turn for help. Will she return to Skeksel as he said?
As the back jacket of the book says, “Be careful what you hope for.”