Book Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

21 Nov

Click on the book cover for this title's Goodreads page!

Title: Saving June

Author: Hannah Harrington

Genre: Contemporary YA

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Published: November 22, 2011

Summary: 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.

I happened to grab a copy of SAVING JUNE by happy accident at Book Expo this year (I wanted a copy, but the line at the signing was too long. Silver lining: the line for the group signing for this book and others was too long and Hannah Harrington was unable to attend, so the publisher handed out copies of SAVING JUNE to the folks–like me!–at the end of the line. Wooo Hoooo!), and couldn’t wait to get my beady little eyes on it! When I did get to reading it, SAVING JUNE did not dissappoint.

SAVING JUNE is the story of Harper Scott, a young girl struggling to deal with the suicide death of her older sister, June. Her family life is continuing to crumble in the wake of the tragedy and Harper finds that she has only one person to turn to: her best friend, Laney. In an effort to stop her divorcing parents from divvying up her sisters ashes, she swipes them and, with Laney and a the mysterious and maybe dangerous Jake Tolan, heads off to California to bring her sister–all of her–peace. Cue awesome, life-altering road trip full of surprises both happy and sad.

First of all, I’m going say up front that I will read ANY book about a road trip. It’s one of my very favorite plot devices. So when I heard that SAVING JUNE was about a young girl’s journey to deal with the death of her sister whereupon she might possibly fall buns-over-tea kettle for a snarky, infuriating guy while grieving and beginning to move on to the rest of her life? SIGN ME UP. I loved the idea of this book, especially since Harper is spurred onto this trip to stop her aggravating and selfish parents from separating June’s ashes so they could each have some. I’m not a parent, so I absolutely cannot imagine having to deal with the death of a child, nor am I married, so I can’t speak to the emotional distress of divorce. But something really rubbed me the wrong way–as it was supposed to, I’m assuming–about the parents essentially fighting over their daughter’s ashes. It was so…disrespectful and self-involved. No likey. Thankfully, though, this book is mostly about Harper, her trip, her memories of her sister (not always good ones) and how no one knew to help her, and her developing relationship with Jake.

All of these plot points, devices and characters are well-known to devoted YA readers, but there was something fresh and endearing about Harper and her humor in the face of her grief. Something about how wounded both she and Jake are that draws them together and plants the seeds of their relationship. Their relationship starts in a less-than-ideal way and gradually becomes something good for both of them, and I admired how we came to know Jake and his connection to Harper slowly and completely, peeling back one layer at a time.

SAVING JUNE was a very compelling, emotional story about grief and death and resetting your life and starting things up again. I won’t go so far as to say it was my favorite book of this kind, or the best I’ve ever read (Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT series are some excellent examples), but it was a wonderful, thoughtful, and humorous story definitely worth reading.

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