When I read the publisher’s brief description of Saving June by Hannah Harrington, I knew it would be a good book to review if the subject matter was handled well. Teen suicide is something nobody wants to talk about but it’s something that touches far too many families. Hannah Harrington has found a way to deal with this subject in a very touching but also very entertaining novel. If you know someone who committed suicide then you should read this novel. If you’re the mom or dad of a teen, then you might want to consider giving them this novel after you read it.
Sixteen year old Harper Scott thinks she’s a freak. She can’t do anything right. She gets mediocre grades. She doesn’t have many friends. In every way she is the antithesis of her older sister, June.
“I always did make him nervous. I guess it’s because when your girlfriend’s the homecoming queen, and your girlfriend’s sister is – well, me, it’s hard to find common ground.”
June Scott is perfect. She looks perfect. She acts perfect. She gets perfect grades. She dates perfect guys. Everyone knows she’s going to have a perfect life. Then one morning, less than two weeks before she is going to graduate from high school, June kills herself. And she does it in a way that will leave the least mess possible, she thinks. Now June is perfectly dead. What June hasn’t taken into consideration is that her younger sister might be the one to find her.
It doesn’t make any sense to Harper. Her parents, who are in the middle of getting a divorce, are sad and have basically forgotten she exists. The neighbors and everyone who comes to the funeral are sad but she’s invisible to them too. But in all that sadness, nobody is asking why.
“I should be inside, comforting my mother…If I was a good daughter, I’d be at her side. But I’m not used to being the good one. That was always June’s role. Mine was to be the disappointment,…Now I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”
Harper is tormented by why. Why would a perfect person kill themselves? Why would her sister kill herself and not say anything to her? Why didn’t she even leave a note? Why would someone who had everything to look forward to kill herself? It doesn’t make any sense and Harper can’t leave it alone. There has to be a reason and she has to find that reason. Otherwise nothing she thought was true in her life makes any sense.
Harper’s grief is taking the form of extreme anger and she finds herself lashing out at everyone, even her best friend, Laney. It doesn’t take anything to set Harper off and she manages to alienate anyone who comes anywhere near her. That includes Jake, a boy she’s never seen before who she finds outside her house during June’s wake. Just who the hell does he think he is? Her family doesn’t even know him. Of course in her rush to vent and rant, she doesn’t give him a chance to say anything and, since he is as easily angered as she is, there’s no communication between them.
“The boy’s stare has turned unquestionably into a glare. I’m a little surprised, and weirdly relieved, or something. It’s better than the pity I’ve seen on people’s faces all day. I don’t know what to do with pity. Pissed off, I can handle.”
While searching for what caused June’s actions, Harper discovers a clue that leads her to a funky music store in a not so great part of town. There she runs into Jake again and they actually talk. Although she still has no clue why June killed herself, Harper is determined to honor June. Laney and Jake decide they need to be included, each for their own reasons. June’s big dream was to live in California so they decide to steal her ashes and take them to California where they can be scattered in the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco. That way June can be where she always wanted to be.
“California. June was always talking about California and having a house by the ocean. I didn’t know why she was so obsessed with someplace she’d never even been.”
That road trip will lead them on a series of unforeseeable adventures that will not just honor June but will teach them about themselves and each other. They will discover strengths they didn’t know existed and will overcome a lot to reach their goal. In saving June, they will save themselves and each other.
Saving June is an excellent coming of age story that deals very realistically with how people of all ages react to tragedy in their lives, especially suicide. There’s no preaching here, just a wonderful story. Harper, Laney and Tyler will all tug at your heart for different reasons. No one gets very far in life before someone they know comes to an untimely end, which makes this a universal story we all can relate to.
Saving June was released on November 22, 2011, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click on the button to go there to purchase it.
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