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.
OPINION: 5 STARS
The Short Version:
Gutting, hopeful and invigorating, Saving June blends not only grief and recovery but romance and coming of age in a beautifully handled way. The cast of characters is small but well developed, giving each one unique life and voice even through Harper’s perspective. With a fun and well described road trip element, and plenty of mishaps along the way, Saving June is both fun and purposeful.
The Extended Version:
Harper is an easy character to like, well grounded and strong yet still holding enough insecurity and weakness to soften readers towards her. Her pain and confusion over her sister’s death is palpable, coming through in a relatable rather than whiny way. From the way she views herself in comparison to her sister, to the things she has to face and accept as the story progresses, Harper is a fantastic internal drive and strength that builds her character in the best of ways. Determined to do right by her sister, yet scared of what’s to come at the same time, Harper’s battles both internal and external weave together to keep her the focus of the story without solely staying inside her issues.
Jake is rough around the edges, but as instantly intriguing as he is frustrating. Holding plenty of his own secrets, and inciting some visceral responses from both Harper and readers, Jake has his own journey and roadblocks to figure out even as things between him and Harper start to heat up. With an ease about him that lures readers in, Jake is a charming love interest who is far from perfect in the best of ways.
Rounding out the cast is Harper’s best friend, NAME, who not only helps Harper heal but drives the plot in her own unique ways. Sprightly and full of life, it’s easy to see how the two became such strong friends. Though she, too, makes her share of mistakes, the way she and Harper act together is something readers will gravitate towards and appreciate.
The plot is simple in concept, but beautifully scripted in play out. With a steady pacing, readers not only are pulled along for the ride with the road trip but watch each character grow and change, focused on Harper yet getting plenty of Jake and NAME. Internal more than external, this one holds a fantastic realism and authenticity without being a turn off to those who like the more world driven books.
Harrington’s writing is gorgeous, spunky in it’s voice yet with a constant emotion to it that keeps readers feeling the near constant pain that Harper does. Even in the happier moments, the grief lurks, adding to the realistic aspect of this fantastic book. Describing the various stops and places in a way that doesn’t kick readers out of the book, the setting is as much a character as Harper.
There are some rough truths faced in this one, with some truly gutting and wrenching scenes that will pull readers in and refuse to let go. Harper’s journey is an easy one to get into, even without personal experience towards it, and the way she changes and grows is one of the most notable and striking aspects of this book. Rapt with bold characterization, and not only pitting this book as a grief novel, Harrington’s debut is intelligent and appealing.
Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading Level: Young Adult
Paperback: 336 pages
Publication Date: November 22, 2011