Sixteen-year-old Juniper Jade dreams of two things that feel like they will never happen: getting kissed by a boy and being vaccinated. While meeting floppy-haired, brown-eyed Nico at the public library takes care of the kissing part, the vaccinations are another story. Juniper’s parents believe in organic food, homeschooling and no immunizations for Juniper and her younger siblings Poppy and Sequoia. They think that childhood vaccines for diseases like measles and whooping cough cause autism in kids, and come laden with aluminum, formaldehyde and mercury poisoning. When Juniper contracts a bad case of the measles that lands her in the hospital, her parents still won’t budge, even though doctors try to explain to them that their fears are not only unfounded, but completely false. Then Juniper learns that a baby in their small southern California town has died after contracting measles. Juniper is devastated, convinced that the baby’s death is her fault. She vows that she’s going to do whatever it takes to get vaccinated, even if she has to sue her parents to do it. But that is easier said than done, and soon Juniper finds herself tangled up in a confusing legal mess. When Nico and his mom step in and offer to help, Juniper decides move forward with her plan, even though she is terrified about what it could mean for both her family and her future.
Author Marisa Reichardt’s sophomore novel couldn’t be more timely, as many people are weighing the potential consequences of getting the COVID-19 vaccine after a long, difficult year of national quarantine. Juniper’s story is nuanced, neither portraying her parents as villains nor her as a perfect hero. But while the issue may be complicated, the science is clear: vaccinations save lives, and the side effects are rarely worse than impact of NOT receiving the shot! For those who want more information after reading Juniper’s fictional story, check out these links: