author : hannah harrington
pages : [paperback] 336
memorable quote : He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.
‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’
Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one — so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.
When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going — California.
Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and 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 she needs.
Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down — again.
This book has some heavy material in it, though it’s dealt with through the more light-hearted feel of a roadtrip. June commits suicide before the book begins; Harper decides that the best way for her to honor her sister’s memory would be taking a roadtrip to California so that she could scatter June’s ashes. Otherwise the remains will end up split between her divorced parents, a decision which obviously disagrees with Harper.
What I really liked about this book was how it didn’t make any excuses for June and we never get a full understanding of why she decided to take her own life. Survivors often find it hard to comprehend the mindset that brings people to commit suicide and from the outside, June’s life appeared to be normal and fine. In fact, Harper continuously speaks about how much better her sister’s life was than her own. She finds it hard to understand, then, why she is the one who is “better at living”, as it’s phrased in the book.
While I wouldn’t say that this book is perfect, I will say it’s a good read that takes a terrible act and allows the characters left behind to deal with the aftermath. At times it felt like there were too many characters in the novel, leaving many of them not as fully fleshed out as they could have been. I would have really loved to have seen more flashbacks of June or stories of her told from the perspective of different characters.
Of course, there is a love interest in this YA novel. At times it felt very wrong. Why would Harper concern herself with romance when she’s busy trying to grieve and scatter her sister’s ashes? At other points it made complete sense, as I could see how Harper was running from all of her problems and trying to escape the truth of June’s death. I wish that this had been more consistent throughout the book. Another problem that I had with this: The summary set me up for some terrible secret to be revealed by Jake, though it really wasn’t as bad as I’d assumed it was. It was a little bit of a letdown.
If you’re looking for a quick read that has sad elements, quirky scenes, and a touching message behind it all, this is the book for you. It wasn’t perfect but I enjoyed reading Saving June.