Tying the Leaves

Young Adult - Social Issues
364 Pages
Reviewed on 10/21/2019
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

June Toher, a journalism graduate of Marquette University, started out as a newspaper reporter and magazine columnist, and later wrote and directed a local television news show. During her career she won several mass communications awards. A native of Massachusetts, she now lives in Virginia.

The title for the author’s magical realism, youth climate-action novel, TYING THE LEAVES, was inspired by the song, “I’m Tying the Leaves So They Won’t Come Down,” which the author’s grandfather sang to her when she was a little girl. The original song was written by Erasmus Huntington in 1907.

After participating in the first Earth Day — its 50th anniversary is April 22, 2020 — the author continued to study the benefits of renewable energy and the consequences of burning fossil fuels. Her recent research revealed the particularly harmful effects of these toxic gases on human lungs, especially in children. Her novel demonstrates this impact through the eyes of a child.

She also explored clean-energy, cutting-edge technologies from around the globe and the forces obstructing the United States from transitioning to a clean-energy economy. She incorporated her findings into her story.

The author has been impressed with the many youth organizations all over the world that have taken on the challenge to address the climate crisis. The child activists in her novel convey the real-life determination and passion of these young people.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite

Timely and driven by an urgent message, Tying the Leaves: A Novel by June Toher is a powerful narrative that will appeal to both young and adult readers; a science fiction story that combines time travel and environmental themes to castigate a political setting that is robbing the young of a future that belongs to them. Jamie is from Virginia, and he is distressed by his younger sister's condition. His sister's illness is caused by the same toxic gases from fossil fuel pollution that are sickening the planet. In search of answers, he and his three friends try traveling into the future, seventy years from their time. But the future they encounter is depressing, with climate change and pollution destroying the earth. There is no hope. Back in the present, they become champions of a cause to stop the evil in the future from happening. They need political allies and a strong backing to get America to the fore in the fight against climate change. Follow the story as they navigate a corrupt political environment and fight for a better world, but can they win against a society seething with greed and corruption?

A novel that is beautifully told and that brings tears to readers' eyes. The protagonist is a young man who instantly catches the attention of the reader. His younger sister's asthma is one of the troubling situations that define his life and that pushes him to ask questions and seek answers. The author does a great job in handling themes of family, the environment, illness, and teamwork. Tying the Leaves: A Novel is told in an exciting voice and addresses questions that readers need to think about, realities that should take a central place in the discussions on climate change and the health of the planet. June Toher is a master storyteller and has a style that combines great plots with characters with depth to entice readers. While this novel is hugely entertaining, it's the message in it that will catch the attention of readers.

Jessica Barbosa

Tying the Leaves by June Toher is an eye-opening story about a small group of friends whose lives changed after being confronted by a bleak and hopeless future as a result of global warming. Jamie Sawyer is a normal, loving son and a doting brother to his twin siblings. He prefers to blend in the background and tries not to draw unnecessary, negative attention to himself. That all changes when one day he and his friends - Keisha Taylor, Raj Sanseria, and Tony Newsome - are visited by ‘Mr. James’, a mysterious scientist from the future. He gives the four of them a brief but life-altering view of the planet’s devastation seventy years into the future and convinces them that there is still time to change it. Jamie and his friends realize that they can’t sit back and do nothing, that they can’t leave everything to the adults this time. Everyone has to play their part in saving the planet. But plans are often easier said than done. The four friends find themselves facing so many troubles that their goal to save the earth and humanity’s future seem farther away than they thought.

U.N. scientists have recently released a report that the world has just over a decade to get climate change under control. June Toher’s masterpiece, Tying the Leaves, puts focus on this issue through the point of view of Jamie Sawyer and his friends. Their characters represent some of the younger generation today who know about climate change but unconsciously push that problem to the back of their minds. They know it’s a problem, they want to do something about it, they criticize that not enough is being done but they have no choice but to leave it all to the adults because they think what can a bunch of children do anyway? But then, these friends were forced to face the harsh future. Global warming was not just a problem of the adults, it was everyone’s problem. Jamie, Keisha, Raj, and Tony realized everyone needed to do their part to make a change.

Toher grabbed my attention from the get-go by maintaining a consistent plot with well-defined character developments and a steady story-telling flow. I became so fully immersed in this genuinely heartfelt book with its gems of wisdom, I was basically crying by the end of it. Tying the Leaves gave me many thought-provoking insights into the world we are living today. It sheds light on the lack of action by people and governments in saving the earth. Like Jamie and his friends, my eyes have been opened to a truth I cannot unsee because this book has become an unforgettable life lesson.

Romuald Dzemo

Tying the Leaves: A Novel by June Toher introduces readers to young Jamie, a rather shy kid from Virginia, who cares very much about a sister suffering from asthma and it’s very painful for him to see her suffer during the attacks and every time she struggles to breathe. Jamie and his three friends journey seventy years into the future. But the future world is dying because of climate change and pollution. When they return to the present, they decide to save the world and so they launch a crusade to save the world from pollution. Backed by a US Senator, the young heroes are poised against powerful enemies, including the fossil fuel industry and mindless politicians. Can they get the government to take the lead on the fight for the future of the world?

The story is very relevant, especially now that climate change is one of the realities staring humanity in the face. The characters are young and this is symbolic because a broken world means a broken future. The author articulates the points of view beautifully and I enjoyed how Jamie’s perspective comes out in the narrative. The story is very inspiring and right from the beginning the reader will be captivated by the insightful writing and the depth of thought. One of the statements that caught my attention was: “You think you have no power, especially if you’re a kid. But we discovered that’s only if you believe it.”

The descriptions are terrific, capturing images of light and darkness, the forms and elements of the setting, and the inner worlds of the characters. Imagine Jaime’s consciousness of being “a walking human antenna.” What a way to describe someone, and there are many such descriptions spread across the book and such manner of writing adds to the humor and communicates the light voice of the narrator. Tying the Leaves: A Novel is a book with a compelling message, a story that should inspire debate in this generation and one that pricks the human conscience at its core. This should be read in schools to deepen the awareness of the dangers confronting Earth. Intelligently plotted and skillfully written.

K.C. Finn

Tying the Leaves is a work of speculative fiction for young adults, and was penned by author June Toher. Focusing on the incredibly relevant topic of climate change, this political and social novel takes advantage of the element of time travel to show its young protagonists the future that awaits them. When Jamie and his friends see the Earth in seventy years time, ravaged by pollution and torn apart by its own weather systems, they resolve to return to their own time and lead the world to make changes. Following in the footsteps of activists like Greta Thunberg, Jamie becomes an icon whom others will follow, but there are more sinister surprises lurking in his path.

I am always so excited to see new YA works about climate change, and see that the cli-fi genre is spreading into other genres too. Author June Toher has done a marvellous job in creating a political and social thriller with those cli-fi themes, centering a group of young people in the eye of a literal and figurative storm. Jamie’s personal investment in the climate, due to his sick little sister, is heartfelt and relatable, but is also used very well in the plot to develop the wider activism themes and the eventual global scale of the events that follow. The characters are well developed and given strong dialogue to get their messages across, and the adults they meet along the way remind me of a few current political figures, both good and bad! Overall, Tying the Leaves is a powerful journey of determination and heart.

Kathy Reed

Just started the book Tying the Leaves, so hard to put down. Great so far!