|TITLE: Saving June|
AUTHOR: Hannah Harrington
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Teen
PUB. DATE: 11/22/11
FORMAT: eARC ebook, 304 pgs
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 demeanour 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.
THREE-ish WORDS: Honest. Too-Much. Not-Enough
MY REVIEW: As you can tell from my Three Words above, I walked away from Hannah Harrington’s Saving June a bit conflicted and with mixed feelings. This is a book that has the potential to be great, but falls short.
Sixteen year old Harper has always been the bad sister, the sister who screws up, the sister who’s never good enough, so it comes as a shock to everyone when her older, seemingly perfect sister June commits suicide. Angry, confused, and devastated, Harper decides to take June’s ashes to California, the one place June dreamed of escaping to. Along with her best friend Laney and mysterious Jake Tolan, Harper sets off on a cross country road trip full of music, romance, and drama.
This story deals with some very intense, emotional stuff and for the most part, it deals with these things well. Harrington’s actual writing is quite good and there were a few lines and passages that took my breath away with their honesty and beauty. However, I think this book has problems with pacing. It took until at least the 50% mark for me to actual like this book and get interested in it. There were a few times in the beginning that I almost abandoned it, but I’m glad I didn’t. Some scenes and events drag a bit and some things seemed unnecessary. At about the 90% mark, I found myself thinking Geez, isn’t this book over yet? instead of thinking Oh no! This book is almost over, which is never a good sign.
The emotional aspects in this book are captivating and gripping at times. Harrington does create individual and layered emotional storylines for each of the three main characters (Harper, Jake, Laney), that I found interesting enough to keep me reading. Yet, at the same time, I feel like this book was trying too hard. Trying too hard to be Something. Something insightful, meaningful, real, smart, refreshing. I think I was hoping for more of a heart achingly beautiful and subtle simplicity and instead got Too Much. Too much stereotypical characters, too much clichéd events, and too much twists and revelations used purely for shock value.
I also felt like this book does an awful lot of preaching. Preaching about religion, preaching about music, preaching about life. I don’t like being preached to and I found myself exasperated by some of the things presented in this book and rolling my eyes at some of the dialogue. I should note that as far as religion goes, the preaching in this book comes from both sides of the fence, the religious and the non-religious, and I found myself frustrated by both.
I was excited to find out what a huge part music plays in this book, but again I was disappointed by the amount of music bashing there was along with the annoying “I’m so cool cause I listen to this type of music” vibe. I loved many of the songs and bands discussed in this book, but even I got tired of listening to Jake droll on and on about them. But I did really like how well Harrington explored the power of music and its significance in our lives.
I wasn’t disappointed by the ending of this book. I think the book ended in a really honest, realistic way.
And we come to the real issue of this book. Its characters. I’m equal parts intrigued and bored by Harrington’s characters. Like the book itself, they have the potential to be really special, but just fall flat. I was disappointed that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.
Harper is a character that I really wanted to love. She’s funny and smart, strong and vulnerable, reckless and cautious. I enjoyed her snark and humor. However, I think her character was created in a way that was meant to make her incredibly refreshing and non-stereotypical, but she ended up kind of being stereotypical anyways. She’s the epitome of the ever popular “I’m superior cause I don’t care what people think or follow the rules and I use my razor sharp wit to hide my insecurities” YA character. She’s a character I’ve encountered countless times before and nothing about her really makes her memorable.
Jake Tolan…I’m just going to be honest. I don’t like the character of Jake very much. At one point in the book, Laney calls him a douchey hipster, and I have to agree. I found him condescending, hypocritical, and not at all swoon worthy. Granted, he has his moments when his wit or compassion shine, but for the most part I didn’t enjoy him.
Laney was a character that I actually really liked. I found her endearing and intriguing. I think out of the three main characters, Laney is the most realistic and well developed.
I must applaud Harrington for her character of June! This is a character that we never actually meet (she’s dead when the book begins), but I really feel like I got to know her. Even though she’s dead, June’s presence is felt throughout the book.
The blossoming romance between Harper and Jake comes as no surprise. The chemistry between them is palpable from their first encounter. I do think that their attraction and relationship does build organically and realistically. I may not be Jake’s biggest fan, but I did “get” Harper’s pull toward him. The physical and intimate moments between these two are handled realistically, yet sensitively.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Saving June is a good book. It has its issues, but its emotional core and heart do shine. Read it if you get the chance!
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