Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saving June, Hannah Harrington

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Release Date: May 1st 2011 by HarlequinTEEN Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating: 1 star2 star3 star4 star5 star

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.

From Goodreads:
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 Girl

We 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 Boy

For 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 Music

It’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.”
“Did you coin that one yourself?”
“Nietzsche did, actually. But it’s a common mix-up.”
“And you believe that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
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.

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.”
An enormous thank you to HarlequinTEEN Australia for providing a review copy of Saving June!


  1. I <3 this book! I didn't think I would like it but I ended up loving it. I just loved the way Hannah Harrington twisted this heart-aching storyline and weaved it together with the element of music . . . it was perfect. Looking forward to reading more from this author.

    1. Eeee! Erin! YES! And HOW did you manage to sum up in one perfect paragraph what I struggled to do with a whole review? Yes yes AND YES!

      I wasn't sure about this one, despite the high praise... but by the time I finished it, it was one of my favorite books. Perfection ♥♥♥

  2. I loooved this book! And the music! I listened to my Saving June playlist for weeks after I finished reading, trying to hold on to the beautiful story for as long as possible:)

  3. I just finished reading Saving June this morning and i agree i loved it so much! Awesome review! You can check out my review its up on my blog right now

  4. This is an incredibly beautiful review, Sarah! I keep on meaning to read this book but haven't gotten around to it yet. I think I'll really enjoy it too, books like this that gets to you and make you feel everything are the ones that get to me the most. x

  5. OH YES I LOVED THIS BOOK, Sarah! <3 It was AMAZING. Jake Tolan <3 Remember the peanut butter scene? LOL. I think the author is Aussie born or US born living in Aussie? Either ways, AWESOME review, Sarah! :)

  6. Wow, wow, wow, wow... WOW! I can't believe I ever saw this book and looked over it, thinking it would be just another contemporary book that I could pass on -- it sounds PERFECT. I was hooked on reading this book from the first part of your review, but the rest of it had me permanently SOLD!

    "Music and fiction hold so much in common." <-- I love this line SO MUCH. I want to frame it for the world to see!

    You always write the most beautiful reviews, Sarah-bara!! <3 Now I can't wait to get my hands on this one so I can hopefully love it like you did! :)

  7. I so have to read this book. I've heard a few conflicting reviews but the way you've described it makes me think that I could very well be Harper. We are so the same type of people. I'm not usually impressed with books about people dealing with death because it's not something I've had experience with but I would be open to reading one that seems to be this good.

  8. I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, Sarah! I loved it as well. For me, reading this story was one of my best reading "experiences" ever because I would play the songs mentioned while reading (such as playing the Beatles' "Let it Be" during that emotional, pivotal scene or the Beach Boys' "California Girls" as they are driving through California with the window down). I don't think I've ever felt so connected to a book before in this way, and I plan on re-reading it this summer!

  9. My dear... Whoa....

    I read mixed reviews about it but you totally convinced me about how extraordinary this book is. I mean, dude... the evidence is in your words! totally amazing review! I love moving books, specially if there is a good quote of music on them! (that's why Where She Went is one of my favs of all times ;)
    Holy Molly! I SO gonna get this book now. Thnx you so muchf for the wonderful review!! muah!!!!!!!!! love you!!

  10. Oh My GOODNESS.I've heard amazing things about this book, and I've it on my shelf, it's been sitting there for a while now. I think it's time for me to pick it up. I'm so happy you enjoyed this book. It's sounds like a sad read. I love that there is music in this book; it sound awesome.

    Thanks for this wonderful review, Sarah.

  11. I think I gave this book a three, but it was a very HIGH three. (Ok, I admit it, I'm a harsh rater). :) I had a few teeny weeny issues with the book, but overall, I thought it was very well-written. I loved the music aspect and the sheer EMOTION that was conveyed through the prose. Definitely going to be checking out more from this author in the future!

  12. Oh.My.Goodness. This sounds sooo GOOD <3 WHY HAVEN'T I READ IT YET??? You know, I've never been a fan of Contemporary books, but recently I've just been reading so many raw and heart-wrenching ones! This sounds EXACTLY like the type I'll enjoy immensely :DD Fabulous review Sarah<3 I definitely MUST try this some day!

  13. GodDAMN, woman. You know how to write a review. Your "Saving June tore at me till I felt naked and raw and..." paragraph especially is just so amazingly well expressed. Your ENTIRE review is. You really do give this story justice. Hannah took me on SUCH a ride and I love how layered and REAL and messed up the characters are. Jake and Harper were incredible <3

    HEE. The Doors. I need to go listen to THAT song!! You do realise you make me want to reread this all over again? *sigh*

    1. Hehe! THAT song! Yes! I swear I loved that scene. So sweet/awkward/hot/adorable! Oh goodness, Brodie, thank yoooou! I ADORED Saving June, so SO much!

  14. What a beautiful review! Quite possibly your best! Your review speaks volumes for the beauty you found in the book and if I had any doubts about reading this, you sure cleared them. Honestly, your review gave me goosebumps and I'm eager to pick this book up off my shelf and discover all that moved you! <3 <3

  15. Sarah... I want to make love to this review... without it being weird or odd... okay... not possible? Daaamn.

    This review is amazing and this book sounds so far past amazing, I can't even describe it! I am so glad that this book took you on a journey that connected to you and to music and to life and just tugged at you and wouldn't let go. I'm so glad that you can use words in such a poignant and powerful way as to make so many others around you want to pick up this book, and by jeeze, is that something I want to do RIGHT NOW.

    I love, love, love novels like this and this one just seems to encapsulate everything that I love in a book. I am honestly tempted to break my book-buying ban to get this one. Maybe after my holiday, maybe.

    This review <333

    1. Weird? What's weird about that? I don't know what you're talking about :P
      Aw, Faye, I hope you love it as much as I did. Saving June was pure perfection. I can't wait for Hannah's next book!!

  16. This has been on my to-read list forever! Great review, Saz and thanks for reminding me I need to try and find a copy ;)

  17. So, can I just agree and repeat what Mimi said above?

    "Wow, wow, wow, wow... WOW! I can't believe I ever saw this book and looked over it, thinking it would be just another contemporary book that I could pass on -- it sounds PERFECT. I was hooked on reading this book from the first part of your review, but the rest of it had me permanently SOLD! "

    I did exactly the same and now I'll have to regret it! It's so going up on my to-buy-and-read pile and it's making it's way to the top. Seriously, I love your review and how you make this one sound. I need it! It sounds amazingly good and like something I would most definitely enjoy. Awesome, awesome review!

  18. You review is... just perfect. I want to quote one of your sentences to show how you expressed every feeling I have for this book perfectly, but I can't, because it's EVERY SENTENCE. You just write the most amazing reviews :)

    1. Hannah! Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your comments, and I'm so stoked you liked the review! I love this book SO much, I can barely explain <3



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