Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Imprint: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 336 pages
This review copy was received from NetGalley
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.
Saving June by Hannah Harrington is a powerful, gripping story about love. loss, friendship, family, trust, and finding one’s self through trials and tribulations.
The emotions of Harper, her mom, and even Aunt Helen were raw, unsensored, and realistic. I enjoyed how Ms. Harrington allowed us into Harper’s mind and her feelings through narration. Death is never an easy thing to deal with when your older, let alone when you’re young and trying to find your way in the world. Yet, Ms. Harrington handles the difficult subject of teen suicide with a finesse that will keep the reader engrossed until the very end.
There were times that I wanted to scream at Harper’s mother, father, and especially Aunt Helen. However, there were also times that they simply needed a hug. My heart went out to Harper who was left to deal with a difficult situation that forever changed her life and the ways she viewed the world. I was glad that she had a friend like Laney who she trusted and would allow her to vent some of her anger, even when it was misdirected at Laney. The dynamics between these two characters were believable to the point that you just wanted to give them hug.
Jake Tolban was an interesting twist to the plot in regards to his relationship with June, but more importantly his relationship with Harper. I liked how he was honest for the most part, even as he struggled to fight his attraction to Harper. Those two really were made for each other. Moreover, I enjoyed how Ms. Harrington didn’t sugar coat the situation or the actions of Harper, Laney, and Jake, especially when it came to their adventures on the road to California because teenagers are facing these same dilemmas every day. In fact, more and more children come to school with excess baggage, whether it be because of their family life, school, etc. and it’s imperative that parents and the school system realize it. We are no longer in Kansas, Dorothy.
The emotions that Harper experienced as she’s dealt with her sister’s suicide were frank, honest, and natural, as she emerged from being in denial to being angry to learning how to cope with the changes in her life. The questions that she encountered as to why her life had suddenly been turned upside down were palpable. I believe that some people who commit suicide choose to not because they don’t want to live, but because they’re in so much pain, feel so alone, and are so afraid that it’s the only conclusion that they can reason with in order to make it all stop. While it may not be right from others point of views, it is simply what it is and Ms. Harrington expresses this well as the story progresses.
The characters were so well-developed that even I felt a connection to not only Harper, Laney, and Jake, but also to June. Ms. Harrington’s knowledge of music is definitely a force to be reckoned with because the woman knows what she’s talking about. Some of the songs that were mentioned in Saving June took me back to some good and bad times and I totally agree that music is a wonderful outlet when you’re trying to heal. The way Ms. Harrington describes their road trip to California made me feel as though I was right their with them, a character in the book instead of the reader looking in from the outside.
Saving June is a compelling story that deals with death in an honest, realistic, relatable way. In addition, it addresses other issues that teenagers struggle with on a daily basis in their plight to find their own way in life. As I write this review, there is a part of me that’s smiling because maybe now June is finally at peace, but there is also a part of me that’s sad for all of the pain and anguish that June, Harper, her family and friends had to endure. Fear is an amazing catalysts that has the ability to make heroes or destroy lives and Ms. Harrington has definitely done a wonderful job of showing both sides of this coin in Saving June. If you haven’t read Saving June, I strongly encourage you to pick it up today because it will give you reason to ponder many things in life the same way as Harper and her friends try to “Save June”. Bravo Ms. Harrington!. You have definitely hit a home run on your debut novel.
*This review was previously published at The Readers Roundtable Young & the Restless.