Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Review: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publication Date: May 1st, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction
Just as May was coming to an end, seemingly perfect June Scott killed herself by taking her mother’s sleeping pills. Her younger sister, Harper, is devastated by her sister’s death and left with so many questions. Her newly divorced parents want to split up June’s ashes, and Harper can’t help but feel uncomfortable with the idea. June dreamt of going to California, and Harper feels that she should at least be able to go there in one way. Her best friend Laney is ready to go with Harper, but the only problem is they don’t have a car. Jake Tolan, a boy June used to tutor, volunteers to go with them from Michigan and California. As the three teens deal with their grief as they go on an unpredictable road trip, are they trying to save June or save themselves?
After I read the synopsis of Saving June, I felt like the plot was very familiar to me. I eventually remembered that when I was in high school I actually wanted to write a novel that was very similar to this one. It was eerily similar, with music playing a big part, a road trip to scatter ashes, and the girl who died also killed herself and was one of the character’s sister. Of course, I can’t actually write so it didn’t go very far. You might assume that that means I think the plotline of Saving June is unoriginal, but I actually really enjoyed the story, which was considerably better than my novel ever could be.
I loved the role music played in this book and how songs are shown as things that describe how the characters feel when they can’t put it into words. Sometimes writers like to make up songs and bands that appear in their books, but I loved that the book references real songs and bands, and that playlists are included in the afterward. There is also some music I really like referenced by characters, like The Beatles, Regina Spektor, The Magnetic Fields and Sufjan Stevens. I loved how real the characters felt. Harper has never felt like she could compare to June, and even in death she still feels like she’s always being measured up to her. Laney might appear to be the typical spoilt rich girl, but her parents don’t care about her like Harper’s do. Jake is passionate about music but too afraid to take a chance at writing his own song. No one has ever believed in him, and he’s started to feel the same way. The characters felt very true and I loved watching them journey through the States as they tackle their grief and their personal issues. The plot was well paced and I enjoyed the story. Mixing the tragedy of June’s death and the adventure of a road trip worked well, helping the book be a good balance between the fun moments and the grief. Having the bulk of the book take place during a road trip could make it dull, but Saving June managed to never be that. I was really happy with the ending and its message about grief and taking the risk of getting close to someone again. All in all, I had a great deal of difficulty putting Saving June down until I reached the last page. There wasn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I suppose it was a bit predictable, but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that. The dialogue was similar to how my friends and I talked in high school (saying ‘like’ a lot, using the word ‘macking,’ and other phrases.) I’m not sure if high schoolers still talk this way, but I could see it becoming dated in a few years. At the same time, the dialogue was very realistic. Saving June is about the different journeys we make in our life, from the literal to the figurative, and how they can change us.
“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that's what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.”