Tag Archives: grief

Saving June – Hannah Harrington
Book Reviews
October 25, 2011 posted by Kiona

Saving June – Hannah Harrington

‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’

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.

Pages: 322
Publication Date: November 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Challenge: Debut Author
Rating : ★★★★☆

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.

If I Stay – Gayle Forman
Book Reviews
July 8, 2010 posted by Christina

If I Stay – Gayle Forman

“Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left – the most important decision she’ll ever make.”

If I Stay is without a doubt one of the most powerful books you’ll ever read. At just 17 years old, Mia’s life is only just beginning. She has a beautiful and loving family, a great boyfriend, a caring best friend, as well as being a talented cellist who is on the verge of being accepted into the prestigious Julliard. On a day that started out as an innocent family outing, a car accident brings her life to a grinding halt as just about everything she cares about is taken away from her.

Stuck in a limbo state, her spirit looks on as doctors struggle to put the pieces of her battered body together. With only the ability to helplessly look on as the news of the accident gets around, Mia is left with one choice: should she live or die?

To say this book is a page turner or unputdownable is not really enough. This book is both heartbreaking and moving, but above all, beautiful. It’s one of those stories that has the unique ability to transcend above the YA category to speak to readers of all ages.

If I Stay reveals human nature when it’s struck by one of the most crippling emotions: grief. It shows how grief affects people differently and can bring people together when your world has been taken apart. This grief is demonstrated by two sides – by Mia as she comes to terms what has happened to her family, as well as when she contemplates death, she grieves for her own life and the possibilities that seem lost to her now. Grief and worry is also shown by Mia’s relatives, some are reduced to tears, others stay strong while some opt for distraction and denial.

The story is skillfully written, really gripping you with Mia’s progress while also taking you back to Mia’s memories and we slowly get to know more about her and how much she’d be leaving behind if she decides to go.

All the themes and issues in If I Stay all come back to one main point – love, in its many forms. The love between family, the love Mia has for her boyfriend, best friend and the love she has for music. This love is what makes the difference when deciding on choosing life – can you still love after you’ve lost? Is it enough and is there love in places and in people right there where you never thought to look? On top of all this, not once do you feel the story is getting melodramatic or sappy.

The characters are incredible in If I Stay and what makes some of them so powerful is their subtleties in the way they convey their thoughts and emotions. One of the stand out was Mia’s Grandpa, he was a strong silent man but in a few lines and simple gestures he could melt your heart. Mia’s brother Teddy had a sweetness that only comes with being so young while her parents and boyfriend, Adam showed depth not only in their love for Mia but also in their way of thinking. Her best friend Kim had such great wit and humor that helped to lighten the story.

Can I say anything bad about this book? Not really, other than it’ll make you cry, no, ball your eyes out, so I’d suggest arming yourself with a box of tissues.

If I Stay is the type of book that will linger in your heart and long after you turn the last page it will make you ask, if you had the choice, would you stay?

Pages: 259
Publication Date: April 2009
Rating: : ★★★★★

Teaser quote: “Stay.” With that one word, Adam’s voice catches, but he swallows the emotion and pushes forward. “There’s no word for what happened to you. There’s no good side of it. But there is something to live for. And I’m not just talking about me.”