The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

If Only We Could Stop The Moon, and June (Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington)

Saving June
Hannah Harrington
Mira Ink 2012

After June commits suicide, her sister Harper finds herself angry, confused, sad and conflicted.  Unsure of how to manage her own sadness, never mind her mother’s debilitating grief or her father’s absence she pours her energy into fulfilling June’s one great wish – to go to California.  After recruiting best friend Laney to the cause, Harper finds herself confronted with Jake, a mysteriously unmentioned presence in her late sister’s life.  Together the three set off, an urn of ashes packed carefully in the back of Jake’s van, on a journey that leads to places none of them could have imagined.

Harper is extremely angry and extremely lost.  As readers are introduced to her she is experiencing a curious numbness that clearly hides a maelstrom raging.  She’s pretty blunt with her word choice and for a large part of Saving June comes across as abrasive and even unlikable.  Except that there is something about her that is inherently great.  Her grief can’t quite eclipse her wry sense of humour, loyalty to the somewhat erratic Laney and curiosity about Jake.  As she struggles to understand her sister’s motivations she also starts to see herself differently.  The inner journey she takes is as believable and interesting as the literal one she finds herself on and she’s a character that will stay with readers long after they finish Saving June.

As far as sidekicks go, Laney’s a bit of a winner.  On surface value she appears truly individual, brash, funny, loyal and kind yet as the story progresses it becomes clear that Laney is desperate to feel part of something – to belong – and this has led her to make some less than wise choices.  As a friend she’s pretty awesome, supportive of Harper yet sure to call her on it when she’s needlessly mean.  In fact, the friendship between Harper and Laney is one of the great pleasures of an already pleasurable read.   Laney’s interactions with Jake are also extremely funny and their odd relationship is as pleasing to read as the one between her and Harper.

Jake himself is another well written character.  Far from a cardboard cut out love interest he has issues with Harper from the start.  As they slowly (and with some difficulty) become friends, his personality starts to shine through and while like Harper he can be a little abrasive he also has Laney’s kindness – often seemingly despite his best intentions.  His encyclopaedic knowledge of music, not to mention his desire to lecture Harper about it, is a nice touch and the mystery of his relationship with June remains unresolved until close to the end of the book which only makes him more compelling to read.

Saving June, to a certain extent, treads a well worn path in YA fiction.  However, when that path is comprised of music, bickering and a road-trip then there are few who are going to complain.  The trip that Harper, Laney and Jake take is full of delicious attractions and from Fridgehenge to dances in random jazz bars it is a delight from start to finish – not to mention a story that will have readers desperate to hop in their cars, playlists at the ready, and just take off.  Hannah Harrington’s writing is both witty and moving and the dialogue is a particular strength with each character having a truly original voice.  While the book is at times exceptionally funny, Harrington never loses sight of the suicide that is at the heart of the story and June’s own story emerges (to an extent) as Harper’s does – yet the story is not about June and nor should it be.  Lovers of stories such as The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson) and Just Listen (Sarah Dessen) are sure to enjoy Saving June and it is certainly a story that could easily be returned to and enjoyed again and again. 

Saving June is available from 1st June, 2012.  Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a copy to review.


Unknown said…
I agree so much with you! The music element in this book made me appreciate it even more. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I can't wait to find out what else Hannah Harrington comes up with.
Kristy said…
I loved this book! Great review. I got to read it early in Austalia last year (for some reason it was released earlier there).
back to top