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Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary (1998)

by Pamela Dean

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318781,931 (3.65)15
The lives of three sisters become complicated when they encounter a mysterious young man who asks for help with a complex science project.

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When a new house suddenly goes up in the vacant lot next door, Gentian and her sisters Juniper and Rosemary are naturally intrigued. Though the three are initially excited that something interesting is happening in their Minneapolis neighborhood, they're gradually disillusioned as the only person to emerge from the house is Dominic, a weirdly off-putting teenage boy, who chooses to speak only in literary quotes. To make matters worse, Gentian's treasured attic telescope begins to malfunction, displaying images of the house next door rather than the heavens.

There were a number of things that irritated me about this book. Foremost, though they attend a "progressive" school and Gentian's parents are admittedly somewhat offbeat, the profound behavior, interests, internal monologues, and conversations of this collection of kids in their early teens require a serious suspension of disbelief. Also disorienting was the author's writing style and choice of phrase, which felt foreign (British?) though the author, like me, hails from Minnesota (to be fair, perhaps she isn't a native). Ultimately, very little of interest occurred until the final 50 pages of the story, and even then the "twist" ending was weird, vague and unsatisfactory.

Interestingly, I experienced a case of synchronicity or what I've decided to call Literary Baader-Meinhof Phenomena while reading this book: Though published in 1998, on page 187 Gentian makes a reference to the 2017 solar eclipse, and I just so happened to read that page just four days after observing the 2017 eclipse myself. ( )
  ryner | Sep 6, 2017 |
Actually, I never finished this book, but my daughter, for whom I bought it, slogged through because she kept hoping it would get better. It was set in Minneapolis (Prospect Park, I'm pretty sure) and my kids went to Open Schools too, so we thought we might enjoy it. During the portion when I was reading it aloud to her, there was a segment where the protagonist makes a cup of cocoa for a guest (or maybe herself). The description of her actions goes on for what seemed like forever, but may have only been a page or so. It is still our standard for bad, bad writing. And, as my daughter said, at the end, nothing really happened. A big disappointment and I can't believe so many people have rated it so highly. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
This book has perfectly captured exactly the kind of person I was in junior high school, (and the kind of friends I WISHED I had!) and what it's like to realize you're growing up and there's nothing you can do to stop it. From the book:
"...Everything's changing so much. I don't even know how tall I am or what size bra I wear, and when I had that cold last week I got out a Goosebumps book to read, and it was so bad I wondered if somebody had taken the inside away and substituted a different one. " ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
As always, Dean writes the kind of prose that I want to curl up inside of on a cold night with a cup of cocoa. Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary is cozy; the narrator (Gentian, 13) is articulate, smart, and funny; her friends are the kind of friends I would have loved to have at her age; her interests are woven into the text without being tedious. The narration is chock full of allusions, references, and snatches of poetry.

My two complaints about this book were, first, that I found it hard to believe it was set in the nineties; Gentian's friends and sisters seemed to spend too much time sewing clothes, mending things, and baking for girls who are only meant to be a decade older than I am.

My second complaint was that the ending was too rushed and not nearly well enough explained--though I've read through it several times, I'm still not sure what was going on or what Dominic, the elusive boy next door, actually was doing. I found that frustrating. ( )
2 vote calmclam | Jan 4, 2012 |
Once upon a time, Pamela Dean wrote a book called Tam Lin, which ranks right up there with Tartt's Secret History for my favorite college-themed novel of all time, but with traditional fairy tales as opposed to Ancient Greek religion to provide the intrigue. But years ago I lent said novel to a pearl wearing Philosophy prof, and never got it back. (i forgive her, though). So, i figured any other book by the same author, while probably not as endearing, would be good. no such luck. it's a disjointed plot-light opportunity for Dean to use her Bartlett's, when the devil, in the form of an adolescent boy, moves next door, speaks only in quotations, and half-seduces the middle daughter, thirteenyearold Gentain. (seduce in the sense of intrigue, there's nothing sexual here). the novel wins points for having Gentian's dad play Laurie Anderson's Strange Angels CD, and a cat named Margaret Mitchell , and assorted astronomy factoids.
  omnia_mutantur | Dec 14, 2011 |
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To David, to Elise, and to Raphael
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There was a new house next door to Gentian's.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The lives of three sisters become complicated when they encounter a mysterious young man who asks for help with a complex science project.

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