Publisher: Mira Ink
Released: June 1st 2012
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Note: I own the US version of this book, but have included information about the UK release.
‘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 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. (from Goodreads)
This book was so emotional. I mean, I knew it was going to be beforehand, but I just didn’t expect it to have such...an effect on me. The sign of a good book, for me, is one that makes you think about it long after it’s over and one that makes you feel a lot of emotion. Saving June definitely did that.
I loved Harper. I loved the things she said, and how she struggled with her feelings (how she wanted her family just to try, even if they failed) and how she could be fierce as well (fierce enough to punch someone in the face, anyway). She felt so...real. I mean, everyone grieves differently, of course, but I could understand how she felt. Like she couldn’t really believe what had happened. She couldn’t cry about June, she was actually quite angry. Angry that her sister would leave her alone with no explanation, without even a note to say why she committed suicide. She didn’t want to go to church with her religious aunt, Helen, she didn’t even know if she believed that June was in a “better place”. But still, she loved her. And the whole road trip was for June’s sake, maybe to fulfil her last wishes, maybe to find some closure. Maybe it was fate, like Harper’s friend Laney thought, or maybe it was just a decision Harper chose to make. Whatever it was, it was all about June and trying to figure her out. June was always the perfect sister, and Harper always the family disappointment. So why would June take her own life? It was something that was never fully explained, and I understand why it was written that way, because from the eyes of anyone but June, it would never fully make sense. Harper would never completely understand why her sister did what she did. She would probably always be angry at her in some way. And I felt it was realistic, and I felt like Harper was portrayed as being justified to feel that way. And she was. To paraphrase Harper, emotions aren’t logical. They don’t make much rational sense.
Laney, Harper’s friend, was another character I liked. In fact, I pretty much liked all the main characters (except maybe Aunt Helen). I loved the way Laney, Harper and Jake interacted. The sarcasm, the awkwardness, the conversations about stuff that mattered, and the stuff that didn’t. It felt very believable and very teen. I felt like they could all be real teens you could pull out from somewhere. I loved the way Laney didn’t know really know what to say to Harper all the time, and she didn’t know exactly what to do to make her feel better. What can you say, or do, really? Nobody can be the perfect friend and tell you all the right things and I’m glad Laney wasn’t portrayed as some omniscient BFF that knew the best way to act in every situation.
Jake was...complicated. He knew June and practically forced his way on the road trip. He was a bit of an enigma for the first half. We didn’t know how well he knew June, or what his relationship with her was. We knew nothing about his past. I was just imagining how awkward it must be to have a virtual stranger driving you from Michigan to California. But I pretty much loved him by the end. I loved his music obsession, despite having a pretty different taste. He was just so into it, always giving little background bios about the artists that were playing. I liked his outlook on life and the way he always told the truth. I like how little things held so much meaning for him. I liked how he could make June say what was really on her mind (and the way the romance developed kind of as a result of that. It was raw and real and confusing and sweet, but ultimately, it was just Harper and Jake). I liked how he didn’t really expect anything. Not at the beginning, not at the end. In fact, the end probably surprised him a lot and I’m glad it did. He did act like an idiot sometimes, but I think he was punished enough for it. And you know, he had to deal with June’s death too. He may not have lost a sister, but he lost a friend.
Plot-wise, don’t expect fast-pace and action. This book was not about that. It was about the characters, about learning and finding...not peace, exactly, but maybe the road that leads to it. The road trip wasn’t about fun and games. It was purely to fulfil a purpose (though of course there were some detours along the way that changed a few things). The music was an important part of it too, and while I didn’t really get all of the songs, I could see the significance. And I loved the end. It was a brilliant way to end it all.
Overall, Saving June was a poignant and well-written read that I will probably be thinking about for a while. Highly recommended.