Monday, October 31, 2011

Saving June by Hannah Harrington: Book Review

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Pages: 304
Published: November 22nd, 2011 by Harlequin Teen
Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.

Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California.

Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession…and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except…Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.

My Thoughts:

Rage, remorse and regret, Saving June by Hannah Harrington is an emotional yo-yo that faces the everyday truths of teen suicide and the impacts of those closest to them.

Harper Scott never saw it coming.

Her sister June was the good one, the one that had it all together. She wasn't supposed to be the one who killed herself. But in the insane spin of Harper's reality, that's exactly what life has become. Not only that, as if that isn't bad enough, Harper's divorced parents want to split what's left of June in half. Harper is numbly devastated, and while she and June weren't as close as they once were, there at the end, Harper knows June would never have wanted her final resting place to be so closed off and cornered. So, Harper does the only thing she can think to do to set June free. With the help of her best friend Laney and Jake the mysterious boy who has some kind of connection to June, Harper steals June's ashes and runs off to California, the one place June wanted to be in life. Along the way, Harper discovers that nothing is what she thinks it's way more complicated than that.

Saving June is sentimental and poignant, with a delicate mixture of bereavement and the everyday, Ms. Harrington grasps our hearts and minds with her temperamental story and takes us for a ride we will never forget. Close to my heart in subject, Saving June isn't a novel that I can easily speak about. Maybe it's because I understand June and why she'd want to do what she did. And yet, I also understand Harper and all her tumultuous emotions concerning her sister and the suicide. It's never easy to make it through the insanity that is life and high school seems to be the epitome of emotional turbulence, rising to epic levels of awesome exuberance and teetering at the edge of torturous depression, hormones have this way of making every teenage day challenging in its own right.

Saving June starts off with a plunge, the first page of the book being June's funeral. And while it's never easy to develop a character who isn't alive for the entire book, Ms. Harrington has done a wonderful job of creating June and all those who love her. Intentionally slow, the development of plot and characters glides along at a pace that is perfect for the melancholy tone of the book while also helping us grasp all of the nuances of each character as well as their rambling emotions.

Harper, the brilliantly flawed and roughly edged narrator, is a strong and somewhat abrasive character, softened by the morose thoughts she has running through her head and the pain and anger she's experiencing at the loss of her sister. Missing her sister more than she ever thought possible, Harper feels a sense of responsibility at her death and a simmering hurt that her sister could leave her like she did. Unable to cry, she plows through all the required events only to feel numb and empty inside where her sister's presence used to fill. This is the major reason for Harper's escapades of taking off with June's ashes. Yes, it was for June, but it was also for Harper.
Maybe Laney's right. Maybe June did love me. But I'm far less certain that she knew I loved her. Did she realize how much I needed her around? It's not like I ever told her. I was too wrapped up in my world to notice what was going on in hers. Even if she did know, it wasn't enough to count. It wasn't enough to make her stay. So really, what did it matter, in the end?

The bottom line is, it's my fault.
A painful journey of discovery, Saving June is not only about Harper, but the little secrets we hide away in the smallest parts of us. Little surprises around every corner, Ms. Harrington shows us readers that things are never what they appear to be and even once we've found the root of the thing...there is always more to find. Jacob Tolen, the boy who mysteriously knew June and wants to help Harper to California brings with him his own musical secrets. And as Harper and her best friend Laney get to know him and vice versa, we get to see all of the things June never really let out. We also get to see Jake show his world and the music to people who need it.
"Have you played me that Clapton song? I whisper. [...]

[...]Jake stirs behind me. "No, I don't think so."

"How does it go?"

He moves so his mouth is right under my ear, brushing the skin there, and one of this hands slides up, resting on my rib cage. My whole body tingles as he starts to sing softly into my ear. I'm not facing him, my eyes are closed, but I can imagine the look on his face.
We get to see Harper change from being "not-June" into "just-Harper" in all the ways that matter. Because in the end, finding peace in a raging see of grief and anger, is never easy. It can't be solved with a boy or road trip across the greater United States. It's something that must be painfully found along the way while the world keeps turning, no thought to what those who live on it are going through.
It isn't fair. It isn't fair that I have no answers. It isn't fair that June isn't here to give them. Most of all it isn't fair that she did this to me, that she left me to deal with this mess on my own. That's how I feel: completely and utterly alone. Even with Laney here. Even with my mother. I'm still alone.
Saving June is a heart rending story, beautifully written and emotionally taut. And while I mostly loved the book, sometimes I had difficulty with the caustic arguments between Jake, Harper and Laney. On the flip side, those same arguments, quite often, created the comedic relief that was necessary in such a serious book. Besides, being that Harper used her anger as a shield for her pain, I can see why the fighting came about in the first place. So, I give Saving June a 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it to those who enjoy YA, Contemporary fiction that deals with tough issues. Also, this book contains swearing, drugs, alcohol and sex and I recommend it for older readers.
The Author

Pre-Order SAVING JUNE by Hannah Harrington
Release Date: November 22, 2011 by Harlequin


  1. "We get to see Harper change from being "not-June" into "just-Harper" in all the ways that matter."

    What a beautiful way to state the changes that take place for Harper, love it! This sounds like a stunning story, I'm really looking forward to it. I love the ones that play with my emotions and make me a blubbering mess:)

  2. Awesome review, Jen! I read "Saving June" for a book tour and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I did love the infusion of music, romance, and June's insightful observations.

  3. This sounds so sad and so good!!! I got this from Netgalley forever ago and kind of forgot about it....I need to download it now.

    And anything with romance and music...IM THERE!!!

  4. Oh this sounds like it really has a lot of emotional impact. Oh I donno. On one hand I want to dive into it, on the other... I'm afraid I won't have enough tissues. Oh and I hate to cry! I know I'll be putting it on my wishlist anyway. :D

  5. Jen,

    I just want to huggle you right now. I agree with Jenny, the way you described Harper's development and journey was awesome. I love that line Jenny quoted. It may have seemed flippant at times, but it seems like that comic relief was really needed, eh?

  6. Well the review makes me want to cry, so I assume I'll be needing tissues!!! :(

  7. What a great review! Just not sure that after such an emotional review that I could handle the actual book!

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

  8. You already have me tearing up! I think this one is WAY too sad for me, but I'll keep it in mind in case I ever want to have a good cry. I like road trip books, too.

  9. This book was a very honest portrayal of the loss of a loved one. Harper wasn't wild with anguish, nor was she hard as a rock (at least not by the end). Still, after reading a book so similar to it in plot, but with added thriller and historical elements, I can't say it ended up in my list of favorites. Although Harper spent quite a lot of time describing the funeral and all the pain after it, I felt detached, like a third person, especially in the beginning. I couldn't seem to sympathize with the girl. Harrington isn't the best at describing loss and pain, but she's excellent at creating solid, believable characters. Harper was relatable, and Jake was satisfyingly mysterious and intriguing. She's also really good at tension between the characters. There were curse words in the book, but they seemed appropriate, and the author finds a nice balance with some big words as well.


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XOXO Jen the Bibliophile

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