Author: Hannah Harrington
Release Date: November 22nd, 2011 (paperback)
Interest: YA Contemporary / 2011 Debut Author
Source: Purchased my own copy & have an eBook from NetGalley
Summary (From Goodreads): When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister’s urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.
First of all, I will openly admit that I feel like a bad blogger since I waited so long to read Saving June. I feel even worse about it because a few of my girls in class absolutely loved it and I couldn’t share with them my own feelings about Hannah Harrington’s debut. But I finally read it (and really liked it) so that has to count for something, right? One of the reasons I did end up finally reading it (besides really wanting to all this time) is that Harrington has a new book coming out tomorrow called Speechless which I’m excited to read.
Harper Scott’s character and voice grabbed me as soon as I started reading Saving June and never let me go. She’s obviously sad and torn up over June’s death, but she isn’t wearing her heart on her sleeve about it. She’s snarky and quick and tired of feeling bad about who she is in comparison to June. She’s tired of feeling like she is constantly letting her mom and her aunt down. Harper wants to cry over June’s death, but the tears simply won’t come. As a reader I could see and feel her grief through her words and actions. I really felt for Harper because she feels so alone, especially in the beginning of the story, since her mom is disconnected and her dad is for the most part out of the picture. The family dynamics in Harper’s life make her friendship with Laney and ultimately Jake so much stronger.
The plot is an obvious focal point since Saving June is a road trip book, but it’s also very character driven since these characters are on this trip because of grief and honor. Harper discovers that June wanted to go to California so on a whim she decides this is what she needs to do to honor her sister. Laney is vibrant and adventurous, so with very little coaxing she’s on board with Harper. I like Laney because she brightens up Harper. Harper adores Laney and values their friendship so she often tries to make Laney happy. This gave us another layer to Harper’s character; we get to see a glimpse of who she was before June’s death and what her personality is really like. Jake’s connection in the story is a mystery at first because Harper can’t figure out his real motives for helping them get across the country and how he really knew June. This unknown makes Jake’s character more interesting to read because the connection he has with Harper is there, but neither Harper nor the reader know if it’s okay for those two to get together. I was constantly wondering if Harper was reading him right and if she should let herself fall for him. Did he date June? Did he want to date June but never had the chance? I really like Jake’s character and wanted it to work out between him and Harper.
A number of reviewers have commented on the music references in Saving June. I enjoyed them, but I could honestly take or leave them. Jake is obsesses with music and spends a large bulk of the story schooling Laney and Harper on different artists like Jimmy Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, etc. The musical connection does open up Harper’s emotions and feelings about June, and it also gives us a little insight to June; I liked the music references for those two reasons. Some of my students now may not like it because so much of the music is “old” and unless they’ve been exposed to it they probably won’t appreciate it. However, reading this book and learning about the music and the artists might drive their curiosity enough to look up some of the songs.
Overall I really enjoyed Hannah Harrington’s debut. It’s a strong debut and good enough that I’m looking forward to her sophomore release, Speechless (8/28/12). The story slowed down a bit for me a couple times, but I think that’s mostly because I grew tired of the grief. I don’t think it’s over done in Saving June, but prior to reading this I’ve read a number of books dealing with grief and I think I’m spent for a while.