Thursday, February 18, 2016

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

June was the perfect big sister, she got good grades and was a dutiful daughter - so different to Harper.  But Harper was not the one who took her own life, that was June, and it was Harper who found her.  What could have caused her perfect big sister to take her own life just before graduation?  If June had waited a few weeks she would have been free of high school, free of so many things, but something drove her to take her own life and it has left her family in pieces.  They were already a broken family, her father had moved out and on to live with his girlfriend, but now they are so broken that June's ashes are going to be split so that each of their parents can have some of the ashes.  

In a moment of insane inspiration Harper decides to steal the ashes and take them to California, the place that June longed to be.  Talking her friend Laney into the cross-country trip is not that difficult, but when disaster strikes Harper and Laney find help in the form of Jake Tolan.  For some unknown reason Jake is willing to help them travel to California and spread June's ashes - and Harper is not willing to look that gift horse in the mouth.  The road trip is not what Harper was expecting and she discovers some rather amazing things about Laney, Jake, June, and herself.  

Suicide is a very difficult topic for any author to tackle, especially when you are examining the wreckage that suicide leaves behind.  A person who commits suicide is in pain, but the people who are left behind can experience feelings of intense pain, grief, loss, and guilt.  The journey that Harper takes with Jake and Laney is more than just a physical journey from point A to point B, it is also a journey of discovery about her sister June and herself.  This is a deeply emotional read at times, and at other times it screams "road trip" - sometimes in the same sentence.  

Harrington has done an amazing job of giving voice to something that too many teenagers experience, the loss of a loved one who has taken their own life.  There is a great deal of sensitivity to the subject, but she has also not pulled any punches, using real language to expose the rawness that Harper feels over the loss of her sister, and the anger she feels at her parents (who really should know better).  There are moments when the language made me raise my eyebrows a little, but taken in context it is a very genuine language - both in terms of emotion and profanity.  Harrington has a gift for giving voices to teenagers experiencing trying times, and she has huge potential to become a voice for teenagers who are too often silent or silenced.  

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Reviewed by Brilla

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