Emma Louise's Reviews > Saving June

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
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Aug 11, 12

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Read from August 04 to 11, 2012

I think Saving June is definitely one of the best books I have read so far this year. After a serious reading slump, and all these disappointing books, I think I started this one with little to no expectations of what was going to happen or how it was going to turn out. When I picked it up all I remembered was that it was a road trip novel and, not that I've read many of them, I didn't expect this to be any different from the likes of other 'deep and meaningful' YA books about love and suicide and angst.

Well wasn't I blown away. I liked Harper almost immediately. I know the one thing YA authors try to do more than anything is create realistic characters that readers warm to and see themselves in, and most of the time you can tell they're just trying too hard. Harper, as a character, is not like that at all. She speaks for herself, and certainly is not some try-hard 'trying to appeal to every teen reader' kind of character. You can tell the author just lets Harper speak as a character rather than shoving words and feelings down her throat. That's what I truly admire about this kind of writing. This is how I write. I let the characters get a feel for their own territory and feelings and let them do the talking. I can't force them to say things they don't want to say. I just felt that this is what Hannah Harrington accomplished with Harper, Laney and Jake. The way they behaved and the things they said, it all seemed so real and most certainly not forced.

There was no real drama created for the sake of drama. It's nice when things just happen and you understand and know that they belong there in that story and it doesn't seem fake or over the top. The story was centred around Harper's sister June, who had crawled into the backseat of her car and offed herself with sleeping pills one night. From the start you do get this realistic sense of loss. Harper feels like she can't do anything right by her distraught mother, feels helpless when her Aunt takes over everything, and at the same time she's trying to get her head around the fact that her sister is dead. Laney, Harper's best friend, really is what I can comfortably call an actual best friend. The friendship is all there, layered in subtly and carefully, rather than thrown in your face in the whole 'look this character is the main character's BFF and they did all this fun stuff together, look!! aren't they a cute and quirky pair?' kind of way. I hate hate hate it when BFF's are thrown in there for the sake of creating drama and so the main character has someone to whinge at or hate for stealing their boyfriend or whatever. Laney is so not that girl. Laney is caring but not over the top. Laney is unique and bubbly but not at all cliched. She's just genuine, and she's certainly not a reproduction of Harper, meaning she has her own feelings and thoughts and isn't just there to agree with everything Harper says. Laney really is the best friend you need when your sister has died and your mum's a wreck and your Aunt is overbearing and fussy.

Jake... well Jake's another story, and a good one at that. I haven't had a mini-crush on a fictional boy in AGES. I save all my loving for my own characters but Jake deserves a big hug (and more) from me. At first you're like 'okay another pretentious hipster boy with his awesome taste in music and narrow minded views about what everyone else likes as music'. You feel it going that way but it doesn't. Jake comes into the story a little mysteriously, having been tutored by June, and making her the mix tape she was listening to when she killed herself. He also is the reason the three of them head off on the road trip in the first place; his big black stalker van named Joplin. Immediately you get this sense that maybe he and June fooled around or were secretly in love or something really bad happened between them before she died, but it doesn't pan out that way at all. I liked how Jake didn't instantly shoot down any original ideas and thoughts Harper and Laney had about anything. He was open to listening to other peoples opinions, and really, he had a taste in music to die for.

Which leads me to the music! Yay!! At the end of the book is three playlists of music that was somehow incorporated into the book. I immediately went and compiled this playlist from my own music collection and it's just... perfect. The way the characters talk and act about music in this book had the potential to be really pretentious and stupid and cliched but it wasn't. This was the type of music I really cared about as a teen. This was the music that got me through high school and quite honestly I just really appreciated how the author layered in this music in the book. It wasn't overdone. It wasn't a big way of saying 'look at all this cool music I know about'. It was just there because it needed to be.

BIG SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT
I think I've exhausted all the things I love about this book. There were no real downsides, except maybe on some occasions Harper seemed a little too grown up for her age, but that's hardly a criticism when in other books you have older characters whining and acting like thirteen year olds. But then I got thinking that maybe that really just Harper. Laney announcing she was pregnant was also a potential plot killer but it worked, and in the end I was sad for her. Usually characters end up either having the baby or having an abortion, but instead, in a really realistic light, Laney lost it early on. And that happens. It's sad but I liked that.

To summarise; the writing was beautiful. The characters were amazing. The plot had good pacing, good intensity when needed, and didn't lag. It had an interesting mix of sub characters along the way (especially that waitress in the first diner they stopped at!! I want to take a road trip just to meet people like her!), and in the end we discovered more about Jake and wasn't left with any unanswered questions. It rounded off well, and June carried through the book the whole way but didn't drag down the story. She finally made it to California, urn and all, and eventually Harper had some closure with a letter June had written. The romance aspect between Jake and Harper didn't weigh the book down, and even though things got really intense before the last chapter, it just worked.

A well deserved 5 stars. I have the feeling I'll be talking and thinking about this book for a while yet. It's hard to get it out of your system, in a good way! :)
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Reading Progress

08/04/2012 page 54
17.0% "This is really interesting so far. I also flicked to the end to find that there are playlists too! Awesome! I love books that incorporate playlists somehow without it seeming too pretentious."
08/09/2012 page 192
60.0% "really enjoying this. mostly for the music culture embedded in the story. it might seem pretentious and hipster on the surface but as a teen it was the type of music I really cared about"
08/09/2012 page 207
64.0% "I dunno, as much as I like Jake, I think he's lying about not being involved with Harper's sister before she killed herself, to be honest."
08/10/2012 page 270
84.0% "there's something I want to say about Harper but I might leave it for the review. But what I'm thankful for is that this book actually makes me care about characters and that's something I haven't come across much at all this year with reading. I really like Jake, and I like Harper, and I like Laney too. But i'll save more of this for the review."
08/10/2012 page 293
91.0% ""... I have sixteen years' worth of memories, and they mean more than bone and ash ever could."
:) beautiful"
08/10/2012 page 300
93.0% "well that escalated quickly *insert Ron Burgandy gif*"
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