Book Review: Juniper Unraveling by Keri Lake

Dani and her brother are taken from their home one day with all the other boys to a compound where scientists run awful experiments, but Dani's life depends on protecting her secret---that she's a girl. Wren lives inside the walls of the only real safe haven in the country, but one day she notices a strange place on the other side and meets a mute boy who makes her feel and accepts her offer to help him escape, changing both their lives.

Book Review: Juniper Unraveling by Keri Lake | reading, books, book review, science fiction, post-apocalyptic
Title: Juniper Unraveling
Pages: 464
My Rating: 3 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*

This book was well-written enough, I can see why other people like it, but it didn’t quite work for me. It was enjoyable, but nothing in it really left an impression on me, and it had a bunch of small-ish problems that built up.

Things I Liked:

– The writing was fine.

Six was an intriguing character, especially when he was first introduced. He was mute, so you didn’t really know anything about him, he was covered in scars, and he was kind of feral but still sweet and innocent.

I can see people liking the main characters because they were tough and kept fighting even when things were awful.

– The relationship between Wren and her Papa was touching.

There was some complexity in the characters regarding the darkness in them.

– I had issues with some specific things in the plot, but overall it wasn’t bad.

– There were a few thought-provoking moments.

Things I Disliked:

– Dani made frustrating decisions sometimes (e.g. she argued about staying with her brother when first brought to the place even though she saw firsthand that anyone who misbehaved at all was killed).

I found the sexual scenes uncomfortable (e.g. Wren just staring at Six’s penis, him showing up in the bathroom to watch her shower and then washing her). Even when normal things were happening, it still sounded kind of dub-con at times and… old-fashioned? But I suppose Wren’s strange word choices and innocence and whatnot made some sense given her life.

The bad guys were too outrageously evil. They tortured, they experimented on, they killed, they raped—they did these things to children even—all without a second thought. It wasn’t just one or two men, it was pretty much all of them at the compound where Dani was taken. Even the non-evil things were a little too extreme seemingly just for the sake of being extreme (e.g. the horribly painful inoculation thing that had to be injected into your armpits and the bottoms of your feet). I love dark books, but it felt over-the-top forced, and the book lost some believability for me because of it.

– I also had believability issues with something in the second half. *SPOILER* I couldn’t deal with Wren not recognizing Six at first. It was so painfully far beyond obvious that it was him. *END SPOILER* But luckily that was fairly short-lived and didn’t actually impact the plot.

– Dani’s hallucination seemed to know things that she didn’t (factual things, like when a truck would leave, which direction she was supposed to be walking).

– Around 50%, the book jumped forward in time eight years. After that jump though, I felt like the story dragged some.

Other Things You Should Know:

This book is very dark and graphic. Trigger Warning: *SPOILER* On-screen rape, pregnancy from rape, miscarriage, self harm (cutting), implied suicide attempts, sexual assault, extreme violence, gruesome torture of and experimentation on non-POV characters. *END SPOILER*

– As for the ending, *SPOILER* it wasn’t a perfect “everyone survives and the world is saved” ending, but it was happy/hopeful enough to be satisfying for most readers, I think. *END SPOILER*

– Both Wren and Six seemed to have PTSD or some mental illness, but that’s not stated, that’s just my best guess. But they both also said they heard voices in their heads telling them to do bad things, and Wren hallucinated a specific recurring person, which sounds like schizophrenia, except it didn’t seem like either of them actually had schizophrenia (though I could be wrong). Is that a thing? Can trauma/PTSD cause you to hallucinate/hear voices like that?

– I classified the book as having zombies, but technically they’re just people with a virus that makes them cannibals and reverts them to a reptile brain state of survival.

Overall Thoughts

Like I said, the book just wasn’t for me. But if you enjoy the good things in the book more than I did, it might outweigh the negatives. Or you might not have the same issues I did. But overall, this was a post-apoc with a lot of evil and darkness, a little bit of hope, and a romance between two broken characters.


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  1. Lola

    After reading your review I am 100% sure this is not a book for me. I always find it difficult when a book is described as dark as it’s hard to know when a book is too dark for me. The book didn’t appeal as much to me and was described as dark so I figured it wouldn’t be for me.
    I actually have a review for a dark book on my blog today as well. I have read some of this author’s other books, but even her latest book in her paranormal romance series got a bit too dark for me. Not sure yet if I will continue that series.
    And I agree with you that if a book is dark, I want it to make sense and not be overdone or extra dark or extreme just for the sake of it. I also don’t like bad guys that just seems too evil and it does sound a bit unrealistic all the people in the complex were that evil. Glad to hear there were some parts that you did like, it does sound like the characters had some interesting aspects. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      You had mentioned being curious about this book, and while I was reading I thought to myself, “Yeah, Lola def made the right decision not to read this,” lol. Dark is one of those subjective things that everyone has a diff meaning for though, I get you. I’ve often come across books that lots of reviewers described as dark, but then I read it and didn’t think it was dark at all. So I have the opposite problem when books are described as dark lol.

      I’ll have to check out that review. Maybe I’d like the book 😛

      But yeah, I don’t want over-the-top stuff just for the sake of it. It pushes my suspension of disbelief too far and takes me out of the story. At least there were some good things in this book though!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, when it’s forced, it pushes my suspension of disbelief too far and pulls me out of the story. I think the awfulness could have been toned down a bit, and they still would’ve been sufficiently awful!

  2. L

    The villains sound horrible! I can’t read books like this–too much blood and gore. I don’t mind bloody books, but this seems a little extreme. I think it’s probably too dark for me. Also, what is going on in that cover? Is she being strangled by tentacles?!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah I don’t mind dark, but this was so extreme that I just found it hard to believe. Lol I honestly do not know what is happening on the cover because it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the book. I actually do think it’s really pretty though!

  3. Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium

    wow boy this book has triggers huh? I was looking forward to this review! Three stars is not bad but I doubt I’ll read it. Sexual content has to be handled carefully because the can make readers uncomfortable indeed! So jumps in time! Since reader often lose interest. And yes those bad boys are WAY too bad to sound believable!

    1. Kristen Burns

      So many triggers. Three stars isn’t bad, I didn’t hate this book, but yeah, it just wasn’t quite for me with the sex scenes and the super bad guys.

  4. Olivia Roach

    I like my dark reads like the next girl but this one doesn’t sound like its for me. I like villains, but I don’t like them being outrageously evil for… no reason at all? And with no hint as to how they got to be in the condition they are in where they are able to do all these evil things without feeling any sense of remorse? It does sound a little over the top. I’m sorry you found the explicit scenes uncomfortable as well. But it doesn’t sound like it was all bad! It sounds like these characters know how to team up and power on no matter what comes their way!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, it was so extreme that it wasn’t believable for me. There was kind of a possible explanation for why they ended up that way? But I still didn’t really believe so many people would’ve ended up so bad. But no, it wasn’t all bad!

  5. Greg

    I do like the cover. And the premise isn’t bad, but yeah sounds too dark. Especially with kids. The time jump sounds iffy too. If there’s anything that bugs me it’s when the bad guys are SO bad but without nuance or a reason WHY they’re bad, or a way to make them sympathetic? Not sure if that’s the case here, but that would not work for me if it was. Good grief the trigger warning list alone- lol.

    Nice balanced review though. Someone could make a good decision on this book I think with the info you provided!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I like the cover too. It wasn’t even that it was too dark for me, it was that the darkness felt like it was there for the shock factor rather than organically. Re: the bad guys, one of them who wasn’t actually so bad explained how he ended up working at the experiment place and why he stopped seeing people from the outside as human for a while… but idk. The real bad guys were still too extreme and not at all sympathetic. Seriously the trigger warning list is crazy lol.


  6. The Orangutan Librarian

    Ahh I’ve read a lot of books that were well written, but sadly didn’t connect to and had niggling issues, so I get where you’re coming with this. I do like dark books though, so I am curious. Great review!

  7. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    I was this close to requesting this one on NG and I’m glad I skipped it, I’ve read too many books that were dark just for the shock value and I’m over it. Also I don’t like time jumps in books, the few ones I’ve read this year didn’t add anything to the story, that is turning out to be a new pet peeve when it comes to books…

    1. Kristen Burns

      Then it sounds like you made the right choice. I agree, I like dark, but I’ve read a lot that just threw in a whole bunch of dark and extreme stuff purely for the shock value. Half the time in those books, it didn’t even make sense. So yeah, I’m tired of that too. I think time jumps *can* be done well, but it just depends on the book.

  8. verushka

    Goodness, I don’t think this is for me either. I have to say that the cover doesn’t quite match the post-apocalyptic genre either.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t think it’s so much that the cover doesn’t match the genre since post-apoc doesn’t automatically mean zombie-fighting, but the cover doesn’t really relate to this particular story in any way that I could figure out. It’s pretty though lol.

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Smallish problems which build up are not fun in books, they end up ruining a book and then you look back and can’t see any major faults and can’t figure out why a book went so wrong. When you have to weigh up the positives and negatives I just know it’s not a book for me.