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Nick and June Were Here


Nick and June Were Here

Ever since they were paired together for a school project, Nick and June were inseparable. Their childhood friendship quickly blossomed into a sweeping romance. Their lives begin to change, though, when June starts to experience hallucinations. She hides her experiences from her parents until it becomes unbearable. Upon being admitted to the hospital, June is diagnosed with schizophrenia. She now has to learn to deal with her illness and manage new medication and treatments. Nick, meanwhile, has become a reluctant car thief who has gotten caught in his crimes one too many times. After getting arrested, yet again, Nick stows away from prison to run away with June for one last adventure. A story of love and adventure, NICK AND JUNE WERE HERE explores what two teenagers will do to stay together, despite the world seeming to pull them apart.

My favorite part of this story was undoubtedly the prose. Shalanda Stanley crafts such a well-written narrative with such beautiful and poetic diction and syntax. I often felt myself being swept away by her writing, particularly during the scenes from June’s point of view. It made the story so much more enjoyable to read, as many other contemporary novels tend to be written rather simplistically.

"My favorite part of this story was undoubtedly the prose. Shalanda Stanley crafts such a well-written narrative with such beautiful and poetic diction and syntax. I often felt myself being swept away by her writing...."

Unfortunately, I had a minor issue with the plot of this story. While I do find Nick and June’s romance to be very endearing, I am incredibly frustrated with Nick’s decision to take off with June very shortly after she was checked out from the hospital. At this point in the novel, June is on new medication to help treat her schizophrenia. As a result, she is experiencing side effects from the pills she is taking. It is incredibly dangerous for her to be running away with Nick on a whim, especially without her alerting her parents to her intentions. While Nick does come to the realization later on that his decision was frivolous and selfish, he endangered someone that he truly cares about, which is not okay by any means. I understand that this escapade is essential to the plot, but it felt incredibly uncomfortable to read. Nick cares so deeply for June and her wellbeing, yet, ironically, he puts her in terrible danger with his actions.

I did appreciate this novel’s focus on mental health, particularly schizophrenia, which is an illness that is not often written about in young adult literature. While I cannot speak to the representation of this illness in the text, I did find it to be accurately written to fit what prior knowledge I have of the illness from taking health and psychology classes. June’s reactions to her visual and auditory hallucinations are so heartbreaking to read. I could not even imagine what she must have been going through. I enjoyed reading about June’s time in the hospital, in which she speaks to nurses and psychiatrists about her experiences with schizophrenia. Her caretakers are genuinely caring and sympathetic people that want to assure June that she is just as normal as anybody else, despite what she is experiencing. The normalization of mental illness is incredibly important, so I am incredibly grateful Stanley takes time to touch on that issue.

As for Nick, I find that I was not drawn towards his character as much as I was drawn towards June. His poor home life and childhood are a significant factor in his decision to repeatedly commit car theft, but I find that this is not enough to excuse his actions. I definitely sympathize with Nick and find his situation heartbreaking, but I know that he is so much smarter than he makes himself out to be. He could easily make the decision to focus on his school work, study and go to a community college in order to begin a new chapter in his life. Yet, because he seems to lack a self-preservation instinct, he continually is roped into committing the same crimes for a terrible human being. The best parts of Nick are when he is with June. Their romance is incredibly simple and romantic, especially in the moments when Nick paints birds on June. The two really seem to balance each other out. June brings out the best in Nick. I truly believe she is the best thing he has and serves to motivate him to be a better version of himself.

If you are looking for an endearing and poetic contemporary romance novel with mental health representation, I would definitely recommend NICK AND JUNE WERE HERE. While I did have minor issues with the plot, I still found the story enjoyable. It was worth my read, particularly for the focus on schizophrenia.

Reviewed by Gabby B., Teen Board Member on February 27, 2019

Nick and June Were Here
by Shalanda Stanley