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Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  429 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Inspired by a traditional ballad, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary is the tale of a mysterious young man and three ordinary young girls, of ancient magic and the modern world.
Three sisters live comfortably with their parents: Juniper, 16, who likes cooking and computer chats; Gentian, 13, who likes plays and astronomy; Rosemary, 11, who likes Girl Scouts. Enter Dominic, han
Paperback, 350 pages
Published June 12th 1999 by Tor Books (first published 1998)
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"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Arthur Conan Doyle

Ah, if only more YA novels were like this one, a book peopled with smart, intelligent teen girls who enjoy spending time with their parents (I did mention this is a fantasy, didn't I?) Girls who discuss philosophy, literature, religion, and science instead of boys . . . until one particular boy shows up: a freakishly intelligent dreamboat of a boy who speaks mostly in quotations, and
Aug 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the thoughtful
Shelves: favorite, ya, poetry
The plot here is a bit thin, but the writing and characterization are so well-done that they carry the book, although the ending left me dissatisfied. Lots of excellent conversation between intelligent characters considering interesting questions and ideas. Like most of Dean's work, heavily laced with poetry and literary allusions.
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-lit, fantasy
Speaking of YMMV, are there few others who both delight and frustrate me as much as Pamela Dean! As usual, when it comes to the day-to-day minutiae of life—school, eating, interpersonal relations—Dean can be incredibly, incredibly compelling. But when it comes to actual plot, well...

As with Tam Lin, this novel's pacing is oddly backloaded; the same thing happens where the supernatural element doesn't emerge until almost the end. I was actually warned me about this, although I didn'
Laura Gurrin
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, 2017
This is one of those books you love (if you love it) for the feel of it, not so much for the plot. It's a modern retelling of an old Scottish folk ballad, invloving either the devil or a fine young man, and a marriage or a trap, but either way a set of riddles which the heroine of the ballad needs to solve in order to win his heart/escape. You see how it's already a bit confusing.

In this story, it's 1990's Milwuakee, and the plants of the title are three sisters, with Gentian, the middle at 13,
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is an endless conversation about books. And about religion and right or wrong and about friendship and family. Oh, and there's magic. Not much happens, but I love it dearly.
John Burt
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have read a lot (like, a metric gollyton) of books where the author tried to blend the realistic and the magical seamlessly together. Pamela Dean goes a good deal farther: she blends the realistic and lifelike with the mythic.
Gentian and her sisters Juniper and Rosemary are leading busy lives, the lives of intelligent children of intelligent parents, pursuing their various interests (cooking, poetry, Scouting, astronomy). It's a very attractive slice of life in a family you would love to have
Mar 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Maureen E
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I enjoyed Dean’s retelling of Tam Lin quite a bit, so I decided to try another of her books. I liked it, especially the book bits, and Becky. I suppose, very much especially Becky. I was startled, though, by how little space the sort of action of the story took up. It was all very slow and philosophical–which isn’t a complaint, necessarily. In general, I loved the way it was so much about friendship, and sisterhood. [March 2011]
Nov 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
JSA Lowe
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
BEST BOOK OF 2013--which I think mostly indicates what terrible things I've been "reading" all year in my doldrums (with exceptions of Bryher and H.D. and Robert Duncan on H.D.). Still, this was staggeringly perfect and came at a perfect time. I was so ensnared and still so enspelled when I finished that I immediately went back to the beginning and read all my favourite parts again. As I wrote Moi, who gave the genius recommendation in the first place:
I stayed up till TWO last night finishing Ju
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
Not as wonderful as the beloved TAM LIN, which I've read countless times, but quite a bit of fun. This one was mainly about Gentian and her handful of loyal friends (banded together, they call themselves the Giant Ants), though her two sisters pop up quite often. This is a wonderful family, as they all five sit around and read Shakespeare together -- the parents read science fiction, and all of them are readers, which is easily noted by their glib way of discussing things and dropping quotes (a ...more
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
An hour to read 5o pages of a young adult novel - this is not like me. If I could stop giggling over the asides and finally decide whether or not I'm annoyed by so many references and usually-not-framed quotations ("There's a boy called Jamie Barrows." "And he almost deserved it.") ...

I read the short story as a child and loved it - although even then the plot was confusing, meandering, and altogether queer. This book was published a decade after the story came out.
I could look on it as post-mod
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book more annoying than anything. It was too mundane for fantasy, and too fantastic for good fiction. I certainly can't imagine recommending it to any young person that I know, nor would I consider it for most adults. Sorry. Just not my cup of tea, obviously.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
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, di ...more
Bryn (Plus Others)
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spec-fic
In many ways this is not a four star book -- the pacing of the plot is a mess, the plot itself is sort of oblique and barely a plot at all, and there is a lot of random stuff that doesn't really need to be in the story. But we love Pamela Dean's brain & the characters she creates and are pretty happy to spend time with them whatever they are doing, although sometimes we do want to get into the book and sit down and say, "Okay, seriously, let's talk about this, have you actually considered th ...more
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
My personal rating/reaction 2 stars, but I'll give it 3 for writing.

This was a hot mess of a book. For 300 and some pages the book meanders along, opining on everything from Shakespeare, feminism, intellectualism, friendship, romance and astronomy, to hit the high points. Nothing much happens plot-wise, save a mysterious family with a devastating handsome, quotation-spewing son named Dominic, moves in next door to the Meriweathers. Aside from bumping into him repeatedly and oddly, little happens
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Feb 25, 2011 marked it as maybe-read-sometime
Some years ago I saw a copy of this book in a bookstore, looked at it, and thought, "Nah, it doesn't look interesting" or "Maybe later" or something like that. And later never really happened and the book quietly withered away, at least as the likelihood of finding it in bookstores is concerned.

But now, having a more intense appreciation of Pamela Dean, I decided to snag this book from the library. I will admit to peeking at some reviews on Goodreads beforehand. At least one of them said the tee
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Pamela Dean, I realized, reminds me a lot Madeleine L'Engle . . . well, that needs some explanation. Her books make me feel like L'Engle's books do, it's hard to explain, they make me want to think about things and have interesting conversations about the universe and our place in it with friends and family in a kitchen while drinking cocoa, and they really make me talk like her characters, which is a little unfortunate. The Meriweathers, the main family in this book, remind me a lot of the Aust ...more
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Dean has a fantastic knack for describing place, and she creates one of the most amusing family houses I've ever read in Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary. I wish I lived in that house, with its wall to wall books and endless room for any pursuit one might care to take on, including astronomy.

The place is so strong, and the group of sisters (plus their educated parents) who live there so vivid that it puts a screeching halt on story development. By the time we figure out what the mysterious boy who
Beth Rosen
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a funny sort of fantasy book. Until page 320 or so, it seemed like my personal-life fantasy. My fantasy about the family I wished I had as a child. My fantasy about the family I wish I had as adult. I wish I was part of a family where my husband & I read classic literature to each other while we washed dishes. I wish I was part of a family where we sat around reading Shakespeare plays in the evening. Sometimes I felt like I was too dumb for this book, and I found myself actively look ...more
Clio Heard
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
While I read this book, I was interested in it about half the time. I liked a lot of the characters, but I was a bit annoyed at how sophisticated they all were. There wasn't much building of suspense; the plot developed very slowly. The ending was a bit disappointing, especially considering how short the climax was compared to the length of the rest of the book.

(view spoiler)
Jonathon Lapak
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I don't know that I've ever encountered an author who I loved so completely and immediately while being unsure that I would recommend them to everyone I know. I read Tam Lin and Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary in quick succession and adored them both. They are lyrical in the truest sense, and Dean takes the time required to really sink into the lives of her characters until they feel truly genuine. Add to this that both sets of characters are people that I would love to spend more time with and it ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
The teenagers in this book make Madeleine L'Engle's families look realistic, which is saying something. I mean, yes, I too wish there were families where everyone quotes Shakespeare and knows basically everything and has lots of friends and goes to a school where you can do pretty much anything you want with many other beautiful geniuses but alas, I find it easier to believe in fairies, vampires and talking dogs than that world. However! That is not to say that this is a bad book, because it isn ...more
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
I found the meandering pace, the world of people who speak in poetry, and the abrupt and not-quite-satisfying resolution of Tam Lin charming; in the Secret Country series it worked pretty well, too. By this book I'm tired of it.

Not that it wasn't enjoyable anyway, because even a book that screams on every page that it was written by Pamela Dean was, well, written by Pamela Dean, and sometimes (now seems to be one of those times) a meandering pace will pull me along as easily as nonstop action. I
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
I am so not smart enough for this book. The literary references and astronomy were too overwhelming to me. Let's just get to it - is he or isn't he. The Giant Ants kept me off balance. There was an intimacy in their relationships that could have morphed into something else, especially for Becky and Gentian. The relationship between Dominic and the sisters sorta felt like a prequel to Witches of Eastwick.
Nov 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
I'm rather conflicted about this book. It's very like Tan Lin and has a simlar pacing. In some ways it is lovely -- full of the friendships of smart girls. There are a lot of literary references which are delightful when one gets them but puzzling when one doesn't and while I got some I also missed many. And the ending was both confusing and really distressing.
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