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September 5, 2012

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

‘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.
Where in the world do I begin? My mild expectations for this book were basically blown out the window within the first five minutes of reading. Never did I expect to be so enthralled, so moved, by a simple girl's story about freeing her sister and ultimately herself. There's just something about Saving June--and it may well be the fact that it literally brought music to my ears.

Sixteen-year-old Harper Scott is nothing like her older sister June. She's learned to live in the shadows. But life as she knows it comes crashing down one fateful day when Harper finds June's body in the backseat of her car. Impulse or fate--maybe a little of both--lead Harper to California, a place that June always dreamed of going. Along for the ride are Harper's best friend Laney and Jake Tolan, a boy with some inner turmoil of his own that could change just about everything.

Harper is an exceptional protagonist. She isn't perfect, but that's what makes her so admirable. She shows incredible strength, both mentally and emotionally, in dealing with her sister's death and the obvious familial issues as well. That being said, Harper's clearly not devoid of human emotion. It's more than she doesn't know how to express herself--something she learns to deal with over time. Laney adds just the right touch of humor to the story and I loved her unswerving loyalty to Harper no matter what. Jake is a bit of a tough shell to crack, but once you get to know him, it's just about impossible not to adore him. I enjoyed watching the evolution of his attitude towards Harper and, of course, discovering his passion for music.

Hannah Harrington's writing style is not unlike that of many other talented contemp writers, just as the plot of Saving June is not completely different from other YA novels in the contemporary genre. However, the fact that she chose to weave music so intricately into the story is what sets it apart. As someone with a very eclectic musical taste, I found myself pleasantly surprised multiple times by the song references. Jake (and Nietzsche) said it best: "Without music, life would be a mistake."

I am definitely looking forward to seeing what's next from Hannah Harrington. Fans of contemporary YA or just a good old tale about loss, love, and life, give Saving June a shot. You'll be glad you did.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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