Author: Hannah Harrington
Release Date: May 1st 2011 by HarlequinTEEN Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
I sometimes feel it’s the stories that effect us the most, the deepest, which are the hardest to sit down and tell someone else about, and explain exactly why. Hannah Harrington's gorgeous debut effected me. It touched me. It reached into my heart and spoke the language of my soul—music. Saving June is beautiful. It’s a heart-breaking, heart-warming and poignant picture of loss and grief, love and friendship, and finding oneself and what truly matters.
If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’
Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.
When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going California.
Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.
Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.
Harper Scott is angry. A week before graduation, her sister, June, committed suicide, and left her alone to pick up the shattered pieces of the lives she left behind. No-one knows why, but everyone’s just so sorry.
Harper doesn’t know what to do, but she does know that, despite her overwhelming sadness and anger, she can do one last thing for her sister. June lived for one thing: California. She never made it. So Harper takes June’s ashes, and accompanied by her best friend and an annoyingly cryptic music-obsessed boy from June’s past, they head out on a road trip that will draw them together, tear them apart, and bring all three healing in the way they least expected, but exactly the way they need.
About A GirlWe meet Harper at her sister’s wake, a bit angry, a bit sad, and a lot numb. Harper deals with her pain in a way the people around her struggle to understand. She internalizes. People are expecting her to cry, to rage, but they can’t seem to figure out how to handle her way of grieving.
While she can be immature and selfish, she’s also incredibly selfless in the ways that matter. She’s not a people-person, and she can be cagey and aloof, but she’s fiercely committed to the people she loves. She’s self-aware in a way I loved. Harper’s a poster girl for disenfranchised youth, but she’s real, she’s authentic, and I loved her. I felt for her, my heart broke for her, and I longed to reach into the pages to her, and heal her pain in a way that ached in my chest.
This BoyFor me, the real star of the story was Jake Tolan. He has a bad attitude, a major chip on his shoulder, and the boy lives and breathes music. It’s Jake who provides the soundtrack to the life-changing road trip Harper, her best friend Laney, and he take on their way to see June to her final resting place. He’s fascinating. His motives for helping are murky, aside from some vague connection to June, though not sinister—just unclear. While not always friendly, the relationship that develops between Harper and Jake is intense and honest, and filled with electric tension. I’ll never listed to The Doors the same way again.
I Can Hear MusicIt’s impossible to talk about Saving June without talking about Music. Music plays an enormous and intrinsic part in the story, but the innumerable references never feel forced or contrived. They feel as natural as breathing. This is a book with a soundtrack that tells as much of a story as its words. It adds enormous depth, and I was wrapt with the references to the bands that not only shaped my love of music, but my whole outlook on life. The Doors, The Beatles, Clapton, Simon and Garfunkel, Nirvana, The Beach Boys, Hendrix, and Bowie. And don’t even get me started on Johnny Cash (Seriously. Mention Johnny Cash. My husband will just roll his eyes).
“Without music, life would be a mistake.”Music and fiction hold so much in common. Both are waiting to reveal their secrets and meanings and melodies, waiting for someone to just open their ears and eyes to listen and see. A song tells a story in a way, with a raw intensity of feeling, that the written word sometimes loses, and a book can tell a story with a depth and scope that’s only present in the most magic and memorable songs. It's a rare book—or song—that does both. Saving June sang to me.
“Did you coin that one yourself?”
“Nietzsche did, actually. But it’s a common mix-up.”
“And you believe that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
The Verdict (When The Music’s Over):Saving June paints a raw, uncompromising picture of grief and loss. Its cover proclaims it’s an ‘incredible debut’, and it is. At times it feels like a literary anthem for disenfranchised youth, and at others, it’s light and fun. There were moments I found myself laughing at loud while still wiping tears from my cheeks.
It’s filled with such poignant moments and insights into grief, yet for all this talk of sadness and loss, it’s certainly not a depressing story. It’s about finding oneself, and the gradual journey towards acceptance. It gave me a sense of hope, and it’s more about finding healing—through friendship, love, music and sacrifice—than losing oneself to brokenness.
Saving June tore at me till I felt naked and raw and stripped completely bare along with Harper’s heart and soul. I discovered myself, as she did. I lost myself in song as I stared up at the night sky with her. I felt tiny and I felt lost and I felt like I was falling into a million shattered shards, only to be pieced back together in an indelibly different way. Sad and happy and somehow more whole and more real than I was before.
“There is so much beauty in just existing. In being alive. I don’t want to miss a second.”Reading Saving June is like listening to that one perfect song—the one that moves you, makes you and breaks you. It’s beautiful. It’s life affirming. The world melts away, and it touches you in a way you can’t quite describe, but you can feel deep under your skin. I loved this book.
“This is the kind of music that changes people, the kind of music that changes the world. The same kind of music that changed me.”