Saving June is an emphatic book about mourning and how family members deal with being left behind. In this case Harper's older sister June killed herself without leaving any written good-bye and nobody understands why she committed suicide. Especially Harper, who wasn't even close to her sister anymore, is afflicted by serious doubts if she could have prevented June's suicide. Luckily I was never personally affected by a suicide. I guess most people just can understand why somebody would "give up" on life. I don't think that there is ever a satisfying reason and that's exactly what this book shows you once more.
The story starts in the aftermath of June's suicide and Harper and her family are still numb from the shock. Everybody tries to deal with the loss on their own and they are blind or to the pain of the others. Except Harper, who feels even more responsible as she found the dead June. Harper is the perpetual second of the two siblings: she isn't as pretty, popular or sportive nor as brilliant in her studies. And she is unable to help her mother to overcome her grief. So she is breaking out, rebelling in her way by going on a road-trip to California with June's ashes. In the beginning Harper is full of anger and pain and it was amazing to see her develop through out the book. How she started to actually grieve and forgive.
I loved the other main characters as well. Laney is a quirky, feisty and smart girl who supports Harper unconditionally. Only after a while you realise that she has to fight her own demons as well. And then there is Jake. Opinionated, witty, bright, abrasive and gorgeous at the same time, he has hidden deeps and plenty of secrets. He is June's secret friend, so secret that nobody even knew that he was June's friends. And he clearly isn't very fond of Harper, at least in the beginning. By offering his van he enables the whole road-trip.
And this road-trip is clearly the heart and soul of Saving June. You will laugh, you will be angry, you will cry (at least I did) and you will enjoy the music. This is something not even hinted at in the blurb, but music is an essential part of this novel. Hannah Harrington is masterfully using songs to tell the story and feelings of her main characters. The whole road-trip evolved in a way I wouldn't have guessed, ever. All three surprised me with their actions, mainly positively. And they meet weird, intriguing and quite diverse people during their adventure, who will enrich the story. Being finally arrived in California it comes down to a major revelation, which I once again didn't see coming and which was hard to deal with. But the end was great, hopeful and promising.
The strength of this book lies in his story-telling. It is surprisingly easy to relate to all main characters. To feel their doubts, sorrows, joy and to laugh with and about them. I was thinking how they are feeling, how they are coping. What I would do in such a situation? Overall it's an awesome contemporary read with well-developed characters and a captivating story-line.