YA Friday: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Friday, November 25, 2011

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Genre: YA
Publisher: Harlequin Teen, 2011
Source: Received for review from NetGalley
Read for: Review

When Harper's sister, June, commits suicide, Harper's already unstable family life falls apart. With her distant father not supporting her, her heartbroken and lonely mother turning to alcohol, and her obnoxious aunt trying to get them all to go to church with her, Harper just wants to get out of the situation. It is further compounded by the fact that her divorced parents are planning on splitting June's ashes between them, something Harper is sure June would not have wanted. With a few vague clues as to what June would have wanted and why she did what she did, Harper, her best friend Laney, and an unlikely friend of June's head to California to scatter her ashes in the place June always dreamed of going.

Saving June was really a mixed bag for me. Overall, I didn't really like the characters, or love the plot. However, there were small parts of the story that I really loved. I guess I'll start with my "beefs" first, and then we can end on a positive note.

I think the biggest issue for me was the fact that I didn't like the characters very much. It isn't that I hated them -- they all had redeeming qualities, and they were well-rounded and realistic. I think for me it was more of an issue with personally connecting. For example, Laney, Harper's best friend, was great in that she was constantly supportive and loving of Harper, but she drove me crazy because she a) kind of annoyed me with her personality and b) made so many bad decisions (namely, getting drunk all the time and then letting boys take advantage of her). Jake was similar -- I loved that he was thoughtful and deep, that he was a musician who made a depressed girl mix CDs and tried to make her happy, but his surliness and the way he treated Harper at times made me want to punch him in the face, but not in a love-to-hate-you kind of way. I'm not hating on the bad boys -- there are many in books and in real life that I have loved. But not this one. Harper was probably my favorite character, but at times even she just made me roll my eyes.

However, despite the things that bothered me, there were many things I really liked. First of all, and I think many can agree with me on this, the music element was fantastic (especially the playlists at the end, which I am going to put on Spotify, woot!). It was fun to hear about Jake's obsession with music, and even my hard heart (when it came to him) melted a little bit when he played the guitar. It made me want to look up some new artists (namely: Ani DiFranco) and also made me approve of Jake a little bit more when I saw the first song on their road trip playlist (namely: "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin, aka the best-written song of all time).

I also enjoyed Harrington's exploration of Harper's grief. Grief about death is an issue I have been thinking about lately, as I've dealt with it more and more in the hospital setting lately, but haven't really experienced it on a personal level except through the eyes of other people I care about who are grieving. I was very moved by Harper's pain and her simultaneous love and anger towards her sister. I loved their relationship as well because they were so different and yet able to be so close. One thing I would have changed is that I would have liked to know June better in the story, possibly through more flashbacks to Harper and June's childhood and past. I felt like June was just a specter in the story, a vague shadowy ghost. And while this can work to the advantage for dead characters in some cases, for me I just felt a sense of disconnect -- everything in this story was done for June, but I felt as if I didn't really know her.

I also enjoyed the last thirty or so pages of the book much more than the rest of it. I loved when they reached California and met Jake's friend Carmen, who seemed to me to be one of the only reasonable, sane characters in the entire book. I loved the way the characters finally "saved June," and that it took place in San Francisco. I loved the closure at the end for Harper and Jake (I feel like I'm not giving away too much by saying that; you'll know what I mean if you read the book).

So overall, not a bad read, although I had some issues with it. I think it will definitely appeal to music-lovers, and it gives an interesting perspective on suicide and grief. However, I didn't relate to most of the characters, and some of their actions and decisions were frustrating to read about.

3 stars

Warnings: A smattering of f-bombs, scene of sensuality


  1. Aww! I'm bummed that you didn't really love this one. I've been hearing a lot of really great things about it recently, and have really high hopes for it. Hopefully I'll be able to connect with the characters more.

    Great review though!

  2. I think most people enjoyed it more than me, so I hope you still enjoy it. :)


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