cover image Juniper Berry

Juniper Berry

M.P. Kozlowsky, illus. by Erwin Madrid. HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $15.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-199869-0

Kozlowsky's debut novel is a murky mix of family drama, horror fantasy, and inspirational tale. Eleven-year-old Juniper Berry once had a cozy, love-filled life with her struggling actor parents but, with their ascent to stardom, they have become cold and zombielike, leaving Juniper lonely and confused. Intelligent, thoughtful, and ever optimistic about winning back their love and attention, Juniper spends the first third of the book trying to understand what has changed her parents%E2%80%94readers will quickly pick up ominous hints that there is something otherworldly about the celebrity Berrys ("Mrs. Berry's teeth were bared, her nostrils flared, and her eyes were dark")%E2%80%94and the balance combating the evil yet enticing forces that have overtaken them. She soon gains a sidekick, equally lonely Giles, whose parents have succumbed to the same power. Although filled with requisite horror elements%E2%80%94thick forest, sinister tree, screeching raven, terrifying/tantalizing underworld lord%E2%80%94the novel fails to inspire page-turning terror. Despite her emotional and ethical struggles, Juniper remains a flat character, making it difficult for readers to care deeply about her fate. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10%E2%80%93up. (May)