Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: November 22, 2011
When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister's urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.—Goodreads
This is a book I probably never would have read. I shy away from death books. I don't necessarily have an issue with death, I just don't like to surround myself with lots of death-type things. Ok, that's not true since I watch A LOT of really gory, death-related television. Maybe it's because when I read, I want to have a good time. That sounds silly, I know, but I honestly don't normally read books that are forthcoming in their being about (let's be honest: non-supernatural) death.
So what changed my mind? The Twitterverse EXPLODED with nothing but praise and love and YOU-MUST-READ-THIS. And because I don't like to be left out, I decided to give it a shot.
Verdict: the Twitterverse was right.
Hannah Harrington's debut novel, Saving June, is great. And while it's about death, it's more about coming to grips with things out of your control than it is about, you know, death. In a lot of ways, it's a coming of age book. It's also a ROAD TRIP novel, and y'all know how I feel about those.
So while I was basically hard-wired to like this book, there were a couple things that really endeared it to me. First are the CRAZY amount of Tom Waits references. (Harrington! We need to HANG OUT!) Because this is a road trip novel, there is the requisite amount of music in this book. And the music selections are (in the words of Ferris Bueller) choice. A mix of indie and classic rock and heavy metal and country and guilty pleasures. It's perfect.
Then there's Laney, the best friend of Harper, the main character with the awesomesauce name. Now, Harper is pretty great (though completely lost) in her own right, but for some reason I really, really latched on to Laney. I felt for the girl, who's dealing with the loss of June herself, but also in the midst of some really heavy stuff of her own. And though she allows her focus on being a loyal friend to Harper to be an excuse to NOT deal with her shit, I still really adored her. I wanted to give her a giant hug and bake her cookies and then adopt her as my little sister. (Not that my little sister needs to be replaced. Au contraire actuellement. My lil' sis is THE BEST.)
Ok, so there's another component to this book that can't be ignored: Jake. Jake is Saving June's resident mysterious music snob who was connected to June in a way that no one but he understands. And, really, he's the key to the entire book. He's the one who offers to drive Harper and Laney and June's ashes to California. And he's one of those guys who is frustratingly perfect—good looking, but dangerous; smart, but reckless with his education; easy to open up to, but impossible to get to open up. You know, that guy. But y'all. The slow burn of it all is SO worth it.
Overall, Saving June is both everything and nothing that you expect. Yes, there are shenanigans. Yes, there are meltdowns.Yes, there's growth. But it's also highly comedic and surprising and warm and honest. I'm very glad that I listened to Twitter and gave this book a shot. If you're smart, you will too.
But don't take my word for it! Check out these other reviews:
Ginger at GReadsBooks
Carla at The Crooked Shelf
Tara at Fiction Folio
Anna at Anna Reads