Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Title: Saving June
Genre: young-adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 336 (Nook edition, NetGalley ARC)
Published: expected November 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

A compelling story of love, death, and family sadly hampered by its main character, I found Saving June to be a mostly enjoyable, fairly easy read for a day. Hannah Harrington's first novel is an alternately riveting, amusing and frustrating foray into the mind and life of teenage angst-machine Harper Scott. It is not that the novel doesn't have plenty of potential to play with: the characters are fully dimensional and flawed, and the plot is emotionally moving and compelling to read. Where the book mostly lost me was with the main character herself and her broody/rude love interest Jake. Instead of focusing on Harper's sister June's suicide and the reasons for/repercussions of her death I was constantly distracted and irritated by the two characters and their constant bickering/will they-won't they/hatefest/lovein.

Since this is a first-person novel, being constantly in Harper's head was a detraction from my overall enjoyment of the story. Harper is definitely a strong character, but in no way is she easy to handle. She's blunt, difficult, and wounded. Constantly compared to June (and always to her detriment, for example: "I'm not used to being the good one. That was June's role. Mine is to be the disappointment, the one who doesn't try hard enough and gets into too much trouble..." ) with an ensuing loss of self-esteem Harper never even seems to like herself - and it's hard to like someone that conflicted. I started out with an initial rapport with Harper that sadly did not last the first three chapters. Between her obvious sister-complex, acrimoniously divorced parents (which is depicted as so bitter they're dividing their daughter's ashes between them) and major self-esteem issues, it is easy to feel sorry for Harper but affection for the character is not the same thing. I think a lot of other readers will identify with the character of Harper more closely than I will - I enjoy reading YA but for the most part, my angsty years are behind me.  I can only take so much melodrama in one book without changing my opinions on the character. At the end of the day, all I can really relate to with this character is her "admitted penchant for excessive swearing" as it is a trait I share with her.

I love a good brood (but honestly, who doesn't?) For me, for another, and especially for a sexy man in a novel, brooding adds an air of mystery and inescapable allure to a character. The rare times I do not appreciate a spectacularly  broody person/character is when the characteristic is paired with extreme rudeness. Such is the case for Jake, the mysterious boy with mysterious connections to Harper's dead sister. I'm really wearying of the tired "mysterious boy with a mysterious past" trope and that probably heavily sauced my opinion of Jake as well. I did like certain aspects of Jake, and certainly found him to be a well-rounded, real character (the embarrassing love for ABBA sticks out particularly, the general love of all things musical) but he failed to engage me beyond that. I actively HATED his attitude toward Harper: she just lost her sister, you know more than she does about it, don't be a dick fer crissakes. The only character I really genuinely liked was almost a bit part: the effervescent and supportive best friend Laney. Laney is repeatedly shown as the only real support Harper has - and I liked that her biggest fan wasn't a parent/teacher but a contemporary. Both Laney and Harper have their own form of rebellion: Laney relies on boys and booze and Harper her cigarettes to cope.  These are two lonely girls looking for attention, love and acceptance, and failing to find that, turn to rebellion and self-hatred.

Where this book really, truly succeeds is with the music. Music and the extreme love for it professed by Jake were the best parts of the cross-country roadtrip setting. On their weird but visually stirring trek (hah, Fridgehenge), music emerges as a medium for recovery for all three teens. With California symbolizing the acceptance and release Harper is striving for, music is the therapy that gets her prepared to say goodbye to her "saintly" sister. The narrative flows smoothly and well in this fast-paced whirlwind, spiced with random and different events to keep the interest level high and varied. I particularly enjoyed the political protests in Illinois, and the mosh pit in Flagstaff (my hometown!) Saving June is emotionally wrenching at times, frustrating at others, rounded out with random oddball splashes of humor. I will say I found the resolution for Laney's side plotline a bit lacking - which was quite disappointing since she was my clear favorite of the three principle players. I also felt the resolution for June's story - the how, the why of her suicide - was short and almost a cheat for the readers. The reasons felt forced and hollow to me - an unhappy finale to an uneven read.


  1. I've been wanting to read this for a while and I love the cover. I know that when I do go to read this now, I will get it from the library.

    It sounds like an okay read, but not one that I'd jump right into right now. Thank you for sharing your review of this book, and thank you so much for the honesty. Great review!

  2. Thanks, VB! It's definitely not a bad read, and the cover is gorgeous! I think you hit the nail on the head with the library loan; I wouldn't recommend buying it.

    And thank you, again, for your compliments. It's so nice to hear someone likes my longwindedness :D


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