Thursday, February 11, 2021

Book Review: A Shot at Normal by Marisa Reichardt

Juniper Jade has been homeschooled her whole life and she's extra annoyed at the beginning of 11th grade when her family has moved across the street from the local high school. But she couldn't go even if her parents would allow it (they won't) because she doesn't have any vaccinations. Her parents won't allow that either. Her parents are hippies who went to the second Woodstock and make their own shampoo and deodorant. Her mother sells bundles of herbs at the farmer's market and Juniper has no hope of having a normal teenage experience. Everything she's read and heard about--proms, football games, even cafeterias--remains tantalizingly out of reach.

One day after working with her mom at the farmer's market, she feels sick. It turns out she has the measles. It's very bad and she ends up at the hospital with pneumonia. Her younger siblings get it as well but they don't have it quite as bad. And it seems like things are getting back to normal as she is recovered and makes her way to the library. There, she finds out someone else also died of the measles--an infant who she saw at the farmer's market and whose fingers she disentangled from her hair. Suddenly Juniper knows--she killed that baby. Or, well, her parents' decision to not vaccinate her did. And now she wants to get her vaccinations. But in California, that means she'd have to sue her parents. How would she even begin?

Meanwhile the town has figured out who it was who brought the measles and her family is outed and ostracized. But she's also met a nice boy at the library who invites her to the high school's film club night. How will she manage first love amidst the raging crises in the town and in her own home?

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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