Saving June follows Harper Scott, as she learns to live and deal with the sudden suicide of her “perfect” older sister. In this refreshingly simple but raw novel, Harper is devastated when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, without even telling anyone why. With her mother weak and her father gone, Harper, the rebel, the disappointment, must step up to her sister’s place. Although the two sisters weren’t as close as they had been, Harper understands her sister better than others. She is determined to do all she can to give June what she wanted most-to go to California. With her best friend, Laney, and the mysterious boy (Jake) who knew June, she takes her sister’s ashes cross-country to spread them in the waters of California. Who knows? She might even find strength and love…
This book was a very honest portrayal of the loss of a loved one. Harper wasn’t wild with anguish, nor was she hard as a rock (at least not by the end). Still, after reading a book so similar to it in plot, but with added thriller and historical elements, I can’t say it ended up in my list of favorites. Although Harper spent quite a lot of time describing the funeral and all the pain after it, I felt detached, like a third person, especially in the beginning. I couldn’t seem to sympathize with the girl. Harrington isn’t the best at describing loss and pain, but she’s excellent at creating solid, believable characters. Harper was relatable, and Jake was satisfyingly mysterious and intriguing. She’s also really good at tension between the characters. There were curse words in the book, but they seemed appropriate, and the author finds a nice balance with some big words as well.
The scene at the beginning - in June’s room - was very powerful, and I loved it, but the rest of the first third of the book seemed a little too slow-paced, even if it is reality fiction. Anyway, it really started to get good at their first stop – Jake’s friend’s house. It was fun to learn more about Jake, his friends, and his past. I also started liking Harper’s personality after about 150 pages or so. She wasn’t like other kids: she was smart, and she stayed up to date with current events. As she herself said, “I’m not, like, willfully ignorant, the way a lot of the kids I go to school with are.” There’s quite an unexpected turn of events towards the end – merely a side plot, but it was good, and it sped up the pace. I don’t want to say anything more in fear of spoiling it. Jake’s “powerful secret” was disappointing. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it wasn’t as big a deal as it was made out to be, and frankly, I think both parties in that little incident were acting utterly ridiculous.
The book’s filled with a lot of unnecessary details, like the argument about the extinction of punk between Jake’s brother and his customer. That was a page or two that I would have cut without a backward glance. A lot of what passed in the car was also just insipid details. Another thing I didn’t like was how fast Jake and Harper went from a cute, long-time-coming kiss to what I assume is the young adult version of erotica. That was a bit uncomfortable.
There are tearjerker moments. When Harper finally cried, when she emptied the urn, and again when I read Jake’s song – I shed a tear or two. Tt may just be that I cry easily, but it was because of these moments that this book earned an extra star.
Overall, I liked Saving June. It has the simplest of plots, and yet one of the meaningful. And the ending was just beautiful. Nothing I haven’t heard before, but I recommend it to any general YA reader.
Spark Ideas: How would you deal with the sudden death of a sibling/close relative, especially by suicide? Is it okay to run away to deal with the pain? Do you believe in sex before marriage? How about abortion for teenage mothers?