The Queen of Junk Island

Written by Alexandra Mae Jones
Published by Annick Press

A book review by Regan (17) and Vanessa (17)

The Queen of Junk Island

(Reading this book) was a truly eye-opening experience for me and I definitely walked away from it thinking differently.

Can you tell us what this book is about?

Regan: The Queen of Junk Island is a coming-of-age story that details the life of Dell — a girl who thinks so many thoughts and feels so many things. She takes refuge from a disastrous school year at the family cabin only to realize it wasn’t in the same state her family had left it in. The previous tenant had trashed the place turning Dell’s relaxing summer into a summer of garbage clean-up. To make matters worse, Dell’s mom invited her boyfriend’s daughter, Ivy to help with the clean-up. Enemies from the get-go, the two girls continuously butt heads, and it isn’t until Dell uncovers a hidden secret about her family that the two finally see eye-to-eye.

Vanessa: This book follows Del, a high school student in Ontario, as she struggles to unravel the secrets of her family, as well as herself. Still reeling from her recent breakup, and with her relationship with her mother more strained than ever, Del travels with her to their old family home in the north of the province for the summer. Along the way, Del deals with piles of garbage, the ghost that haunts her reflections, her mom’s new boyfriend, and his insufferable daughter, Ivy. By the time autumn rolls around, Del finds her life changed in ways she never thought possible.

What do you like about this book?

Regan: I like its confidence. I know it’s something strange to praise about a book, but truly the writing of the characters and events just screams confidence. It’s not afraid to show its readers topics that are continuously hushed in society and it’s certainly not afraid to touch on darker aspects that many readers may squirm away from. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me and I definitely walked away from it thinking differently.

Vanessa: I like this book because it is blunt about the truths of being a teenager. Over the course of the novel, Del explores relationships, self-empowerment, her sexuality and desires, and the traumas of both herself and her family. The good, the bad, and the complicated are all shown honestly and described as they are, with no sugarcoating. The highs aren’t diminished, and the lows aren’t glorified. The book is wonderfully written to bring all of the teenaged emotion across, and it makes for a fantastic read.

What do you like about the main character?

Regan: To be brutally honest – I loved her attitude. Sometimes the way she would react to Ivy had me snorting with laughter. I also loved her sense of adventure and her joy in uncovering mysteries; it reminded me a bit too much of myself.

Vanessa: As for Del herself, she is a properly fleshed-out character, whose struggles are understandable and that the reader can empathize with, especially if they are a teenager themself. Her dealing with her fears and trying to find her own identity are universally relatable, as we have all needed to do that at one time or another. Sometimes she’s awkward, and sometimes she’s messy; but aren’t we all?

What important messages/themes are present in the story and why would this appeal to a young adult reader?

Regan: An important message in this book is: that there is no wrong way to be yourself. Embracing yourself may come with hard stuck difficulties and resentment for the way you act in situations may come easier than accepting yourself. However, in the long run, all you can do is work with what you got, so why not enjoy it? I feel young adult readers can really emphasize with Dell on the way she views the world at the beginning of the book and then begins to grow as her story progresses. Maybe they will be able to find some comfort in her thoughts. 

Vanessa; I think the most important themes of this story include healing, mother-daughter relationships, sexuality and pleasure, and social stigmas. These helped to make the story more appealing by discussing the aspects of teenagehood – and of life – that are so often hushed up. Non-linear recovery from trauma, self-pleasure, bisexuality, and what it means to exist in our society as a girl are all discussed candidly. It’s refreshing to read something that breaks so many social taboos in favour of speaking the truth.

Who would you recommend this book to?

Regan: Anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories with LGBTQ2IA+ elements in them. Or just anyone who is feeling a little lost in the world. 

Vanessa: I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever undertaken a journey to find out who they really are, especially if that self-discovery took place in the early 2000s. To anyone on that voyage now: you and Del are in the same boat. I hope that seeing how she braves the storm inspires you to do the same.

If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?

Regan: Did you listen to any music while writing this story? If so, what kind of music?

Regan, Book Reviewer

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