Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Release Date: November 22, 2011
Target Audience: Young Adult
How I found out about it: NetGalley
Format: Sent to Kindle from NetGalley
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Harper’s sister, June, commits suicide by overdosing on pills; no one has answers about why she did it. Harper knows she has to do what June always wanted to do – go to California. She road trips with her best friend, Laney, and a boy, Jake, that was somehow connected to her sister.
Saving June has left me emotionally raw and ripped to pieces.
We are introduced to Harper after June’s funeral. June is her older sister who committed suicide – she and Harper were night and day different. June was very willing and eager to please, make perfect grades, and was surrounded by tons of friends. Harper was disobedient, a less than ideal student, and had only one close friend. When June dies, no one knows why. She leaves behind no note. Harper rummaged through her room and found something that reminded her how badly June wanted to escape Michigan to live in California. It’s then that she realizes that she has to find a way to scatter her sister’s ashes there.
She and her best friend, Laney, devise a plan to road trip to California, but have no means of transportation. A boy June used to tutor, Jake, offers to drive them in his van. The unlikely threesome set off on an adventure to discover answers about why June might have chosen to take her own life. There’s such a mix of tender emotion and rage – Why would June do this? Is God real? How could everyone have overlooked the signs? Harrington did a beautiful job setting up the story so that we would feel exactly how Harper would have. Lost, confused, hurting, mad, depressed, dejected – but most of all, ignorant.
There’s so little we know about June and Jake. Did they date? If they didn’t know each other well, why would he offer to drive over two thousand miles to help out these two girls? Jake’s character was so mysterious and multi-layered. I really enjoyed getting to know more about him. One of my favorite character traits was his love for music – I constantly have music playing while I work, but I wouldn’t say I’m a music snob. Jake kind of was. He tossed out so many bands and songs that I felt like I should grab a notebook to scribble them all down. (Instead, Harrington did something incredibly awesome – before her acknowledgements, she included several playlists!)
Jake and Harper do not have an easy relationship; by all outer appearances, these two would seem to hate one another. Their banter is humorous and they’re brutally honest with one another. So many things go unsaid between Harper and everyone else in her life – Jake seems like a breath of fresh air, telling her exactly how he feels and laying everything on the line. Laney was such a supportive best friend, in many ways even Harper couldn’t see or understand. I loved the dynamic between them and the ways they learned to be supportive and strong together.
This story is so beautifully written. When I wasn’t reading, I was constantly thinking about it and when I’d have my next chance to sit down to read. I read all through Thanksgiving day while my family sat down to watch football. It’s just that wonderful. Kudos to Hannah Harrington for such a beautiful debut novel!