Cover of Saint Juniper's Folly, by Alex Crespo. A teen boy and girl approach a house in a dark woods, where another figure stands in a lighted door.

About the Book

Title: Saint Juniper’s Folly
Published: 2023

Cover Story: There’s a Light…
Drinking Buddy: Campfire Beer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (language, alcohol use, mild violence)
Talky Talk: Boo.
Bonus Factors: Curses, Adults
Bromance Status: Why not?

Cover Story: There’s a Light…

Another fine example of how book covers should look. Theo and Taylor coming upon Jaime in Blackwood Manor. Creepy and mysterious. Kudos.

The Deal:

Jaime has been kicked from foster family to foster family ever since his parents abandoned him. He’s now in some backwater Vermont tourist town, living with someone who doesn’t care if he lives or dies. Everyone already knows his checkered past, and as a Mexican-American, he really sticks out here. Sometimes he wants to wander off in the mysterious valley of St. Juniper’s Folly and vanish. That is until he meets Theo, a local kid so friendless and awkward he actually wants to hang out with Jaime. An innocent, cute, friendly boy who treats Jaime like anyone. But things like that are doomed to fail. They always are.

Theo is sick of playing the perfect son to his robot-like parents. He’s not sure what he wants out of his future, and he’s tired of toeing the line. And his attraction to boys–his parents would never understand. He knows things would never work out with Jaime, and yet…that boy is completely comfortable with his sexuality. He keeps telling Theo to leave him alone, but Theo’s worried about his safety.

Finally, there’s Taylor. A Puerto Rican girl who runs the local ‘psychic’ shop with her father, as they both try to recover from the death of her mother. She recognizes that Jaime needs help and is determined to watch out for both her derpy new guy friends.

Also, Jaime is physically trapped in a haunted house and Taylor is a powerful witch.

Drinking Buddy: Campfire Beer

Two pints of beer cheersing

Jaime, Theo, and Taylor were the sort of kids you’d sneak out in the woods with and split the six pack you filched from your parents. Completely different kids, but all that fades away when you’re telling tales alone in the dark. The multiple-POV narration works well.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (language, alcohol use, mild violence)

The main focus of this book was the romantic tension between Jaime and Theo. Jaime has been hurt so many times, he’s sure Theo is going to take off for the hills the second things get complicated. Theo, who barely can admit to himself that he’s attracted to Jaime, has a hard time expressing his feelings to this solitary, angry young man.

As for the haunting side of things, I’ve seen scarier stuff on the Disney Channel (see below).

Talky Talk: Boo.

So in chapter one, Jaime compulsively visits the local abandoned party house and becomes trapped. Like, an invisible barrier locking him in, and a ghostly woman telling him he can never leave. Theo randomly runs into him and realizes he has to help Jaime escape, not to mention keep him fed. He enlists Taylor’s help in dealing with the supernatural.

The thing is, everyone just kind of shrugs all this off. No one’s worried that Jaime might grow old there or that his soul is in danger. Rather, they only concentrate on getting him out before the next Department of Family Services visit. Jaime and Theo obsess over their budding romance, rather than the fact they have absolute proof that ghosts exist. Taylor spends more time worrying about her poor relationship with her father than the fact that she literally has magical powers. Jaime, who has been held hostage by a ghost for days, is embarrassed to ask Theo to bring him some deodorant.

Also, this haunted house is the place where the local kids go out to drink. And yet, it’s in pristine condition, with furniture, paintings, and even table settings. That place would have been vandalized down to the studs in real life. I think a mysterious building that only our trio could find would have worked better.

All in all, this would have worked as a horror story or a straight up romance, but the genre blending left me wanting on both counts.

Bonus Factor: Curses

Somehow, Jaime’s predicament has to do with a death that happened in the house over a hundred years ago (which makes its pristine condition even more unbelievable). Why does the ghost of the dead woman insist that Jaime can never leave? Why did Taylor’s late mother have a map to the house? Why is her father so determined she not practice witchcraft?

Factor: Adults

Screenshot from Richie Ritch, with Richie wearing a suit and sitting at a desk

So this book didn’t go full on Lord of the Flies with no adults whatsoever. But the ones that were there were kind of window dressing. Jaime’s carer doesn’t mind that he seems to have run away and may be in trouble. She hasn’t even talked to the police. Theo’s obnoxious dad becomes angry that Theo is buying so much food at the grocery store (for Jaime) because it makes him look like a poor father. Taylor’s father refuses to allow her to practice her magic or have access to her mother’s papers, and shuts her down when she tries to talk to him (because he’s Puerto Rican, and therefore doesn’t need to justify questionable parenting). Every other adult is of the ‘those darn kids’ or ‘well, I never!’ school. Again, this book would have been better if Jaime had just run away from a bad situation and his friends were trying to cover for him, rather than shoehorn in the supernatural angle.

Bromance Status: Why not?

Can’t say I’d recommend this book to a friend, but I have a feeling I’ll pick up the next thing the author writes.

Literary Matchmaking

Cast No Shadow

Nick Tapalansky’s Cast No Shadow also deals with a haunted house in a tourist town.

The Devils You Know

The Devils You Know, by M.C. Atwood, has the same theme.


As does Holly Schindler’s Feral.

FCC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or healing crystals.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.