Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.
When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going California.
Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.
Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.
Who doesn’t love a good road trip story? Though I thought this book had a bit of a slow start, it delivers on its promise, providing about 250 pages of road-tripping glory. There are time-passing car games, impulsive adventures, identity crises, heartbreak, scandal, and that breathtaking feeling that comes with reading about the most life-changing moments of someone’s life.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Saving June is genuine. This book genuinely captures Harper Scott’s unique adolescence. The emotions and events described in Saving June are raw, powerful, and absolutely spot-on. Hannah Harrington receives my highest commendation for so perfectly capturing Harper’s voice and telling her story in a profoundly real world. These characters and their story leapt off the page for me so that I felt as if I was in the backseat of Jake’s car, listening in on their conversations during the ride to California. I believe this was due mostly the absolutely perfect dialogue. Every word that each character spoke (especially Harper) was realistic, accurate to the way people actually speak, and further developed each character. For a book dealing with such important themes, the dialogue has a large impact on the authenticity of the characters and their situation. Harrington’s dialogue elevated Saving June to the highest level.
Harrington tackles a heavy, yet delicate issue in Saving June – sharing the grieving process of a sibling who has been left behind. When dealing with an issue like this, it’s easy for the characters to become too maudlin or too angsty, therefore alienating the reader, but Harrington finds the perfect middle ground. It’s easy to sympathize with Harper throughout her journey and to understand why she makes the decisions she does. Harper’s thoughts and feelings are described clearly, even when she isn’t quite sure what she’s feeling. It’s always a relief to read about a character who’s honest with themselves, as that makes the character more accessible and relatable to the reader. In the beginning of Saving June, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to relate to Harper. I knew I’d like her, but I was pleasantly to find that not only did I love her and want her for my own best friend, but I could relate to the way she acted and thought about a lot of issues, and there’s something beautiful about characters that can surprise you in that way.
Music plays a huge role in Saving June, but not in an overbearing way. For those with a passion for music, the hints and descriptions as to the songs being referenced are fun to decode. For those not as familiar with Jake’s favorite bands, the songs are described rather than just name-dropped so that you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything pivotal. And, just in case you do manage to feel a little left out, there are a few playlists at the end of the book that you can skip ahead to and play while you read, which will just bring you closer to the book and the characters.
Speaking of Jake and his music obsession, the romance in Saving June may not be the most prevalent aspect of the book, but boy does it pay off. The way Harrington deals with Jake and Harper’s relationship is ingenious and well worth the wait. In fact, the entire ending of the book pays off. Actually, scratch that. The entire book pays off and is worth reading and rereading.
Publication Date: November 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Challenge: Debut Author
Teaser Quote: “It hurts to look, but I don’t want to stop. I want to soak in everything about my sister. I want to braid it into my DNA, make it part of me. Maybe then I’ll be able to figure out how this happened.”