Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Saving Jane by Hannah Harrington

Saving JuneDescription: 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.

Stats: Young Adult Contemporary, 322 pages, First Published by Harlequin Teen, May 2011.
My Rating: 3 Stars

"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."

Saving June follows a familiar tale of woe. We start at the beloved June's wake, the perfect student, the perfect daughter, who has committed suicide only days before. Now her younger sister Harper is left to pick up the pieces of her life and find where exactly she belongs in it now that June is gone.

Harper is a strong girl with a reputation as a disappointment compared to her sister. She's not particularly motivated, she only has one friend, she tries not to care about what people think of her, and loves photography and cigarettes. So, even if this is all about the common theme of learning to deal with grief, Harper's narrative was promising right off the bat. She constantly walked that line between being strong and weak, between angry and sad, between loving and losing. It's this variation in her emotions that made it so easy for me to connect with her. She wasn't picking one feeling and holding on to that. Instead, Harper is chaotic and confused  in the best way possible.

It takes a little while, but eventually Saving June becomes the story of a road trip from Indiana to California. June always wanted to go to the beautiful California ocean so what could be better then escaping the depressing homestead and bringing June's ashes to where she really wanted to be?

This of course means that Harper must steal said ashes and run away from home, but she has two very willing accomplices to get her there!

First we have Laney, the best friend. She is lovable, loose, and full of enthusiasm. She wants to help her friend, even if she doesn't entirely know what's best. Often times she was hit or miss for me, not because of then character, but because of how the writing often misplaces her. She's there, along for the journey, but wanders off at the drop of a hat for no reason, with no further mention of where she was or what she did, except that she has now returned from her convenient misplacement. But when she was around, she was interesting.

Then we have the mysterious Jacob, better known as Jake, who blackmails his way into the girl's plans, but provides in exchange wheels and enough cash to actually get there. He has some connection to June, but whatever it is he's not about to just come out and say it. Jake was by far one of the biggest reasons for why I enjoyed this book. His passion for music is a very, very key component in the storytelling. (of which this book would be completely different without.) He also has this reluctant charm to him that played well against Harper's personality. They had a rhythm of bouncing things back and forth between them with both their humour and their grief.

Now, because this is a road trip book, of course there are a few very colourful characters along the way. (In one case, colourful should be taken literally.) Some of which were interesting and charming, but the majority fell into a category of stock characters that you would automaticly expect from a road trip. This was disappointing since my stance on road trips is judged by the effectiveness of these side characters and the random destinations. Sometimes the side characters and pit stops worked, other times they left something to be desired.

I did however have a lot of things I liked about Saving June. The music references are a plenty but they aren't annoying or contrived. There are definitely some great one liners and fun conversation. Harper kept me invested and as the story progressed I found myself really enjoying all the road trip elements, even the ones I expected to see from the genre.

By the end I decided on three stars because this does have it's flaws. The plot is predicable. A nice, comfortable sort of predicable, but when it came to the events and characters I was looking for something a little bit more exciting. The side characters have very vivid personalities, but this was the Jake and Harper show. I was hoping that friendship would play a bigger part then romance, but Laney got treated like a third wheel and her side story that happens near the end of the book was treated the same way her character was, one second it's there and the next it's really not, with no real gravity or focus on the events which had to have taken place in-between.

I came off of reading this book on a high, it was amazing in those moments right after I closed the book, but the more time passes the more I settled out of my buzzing state and into one of a more subtle appreciation.

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