Friday, November 18, 2011
Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Struggling to deal with her perfect older sister June’s suicide, Harper sets off on a road trip to California, accompanied by her best friend, Laney, and Jake Tolan, a boy who was somehow connected to June. Harper is not sure what their road trip will accomplish, except that it was always June’s dream to go to California. However, their journey takes unexpected twists and turns as Harper learns about Laney, Jake, June, and herself in a trip that none of them will forget.
SAVING JUNE is a debut YA contemporary novel that lives up to its hype: it is a wonderfully told story that weaves standout characters and a genuine passion for music into a journey that is moving for Harper as well as for us readers.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d like SAVING JUNE at first. The beginning one-fifth of the book had more than its fair share of features that are all too common to YA books dealing with grief—or, for that matter, any YA contemporary story: the main character with suppressed anger towards her dead sibling, the dead sibling, the more outgoing best friend, the good-looking mysterious boy with secrets, the over-the-top ridiculous mean relative. I mean, there is a “life-changing road trip,” for goodness’ sake.
Once Harper, Laney, and Jake finally, finally hit the road, however, it was like someone had flipped the switch and turned on the life to this story. Spending weeks together in a car is really a great way to get to know characters: personalities clash, secrets are revealed, and unshakeable bonds develop. The three main characters completely grew on me. Harper’s grief became less plot-driven (i.e. there for the sake of the story) and more character-driven (genuine poignant grief over June’s death). Laney started out as simply the outgoing best friend, but grew to have more depth than I initially thought.
As for Jake, well, his character development definitely impressed me the most. You’d have to be slightly naïve not to guess what role he plays in the story, but what impressed me was that his “ideal love interest” character developed not from a set of parameters thrown at us at the beginning, but, rather, gradually through the course of the story, each new chapter revealing another lovable aspect of him. Authors, take note of how to write a truly swoon-worthy love interest, please.
All in all, SAVING JUNE pleased me to no end. It broke the constraints it imposed on itself by having a rather tired premise and, through genuine and memorable characters, makes itself stand out in the crowd. If you love YA contemporary, please, do yourself a favor and give this a try. Odds are you won’t regret it.
Lili Wilkinson (Pink)
Cover discussion: Well, this is a, um, quite morose cover for this book. I definitely didn't pay attention to this book on account of its cover, until people started raving about it.
Harlequin Teen / Nov. 22, 2011 / Paperback / 336pp. / $9.99
Requested for review from NetGalley.