When Harper’s sister inexplicably kills herself just weeks before her high school graduation, she sets off on a cross-country road trip to take June’s ashes to California. June had always dreamed of moving there, and Harper feels that this is a way to give her in death what she couldn’t have in life. Along for the ride are Harper’s best friend Laney and mystery boy Jake, whose connection to June is unknown but whose van is desperately needed.
Based on the subject matter I expected this book to be an ugly sobfest and I was surprised to find that it really wasn’t. There were parts that were sad for sure, but though I went in thinking it would be a downer in the end I actually thought it was more uplifting than anything. And to my surprise, I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the uplifting-ness of it. It managed to be hopeful without being totally cheesy or cliche, which is a fine and difficult line to walk (at least in my opinion).
I loved the idea of a road trip to honor her sister and give her the ending that Harper thinks she would have wanted. It’s basically a “love conquers all” thing because even though Harper is so pissed at June that she basically hates her for her selfish actions, she still loves her enough to want to give her the sendoff she would have wanted in the place she most wanted to be. It was really touching. It was also interesting to learn more about Harper & June’s relationship and see how Harper discovers things about her sister’s life and personality that she never knew while June was alive.
Jake is a good counterpoint for Harper. He’s caring and understanding of what she’s going through yet he’s still able to call her out when she’s being ridiculous. He ended up being my favorite character, even more so than Harper. I liked Laney a lot less but she was obviously dealing with issues of her own.
Those who have dealt with the suicide of a friend or family member will be able to relate to Harper’s feelings of confusion, anger, and pain. June’s life didn’t really seem all that terrible, but that’s often the case with suicide; nobody really understands the true motivations and what finally pushes someone until they feel that life isn’t worth living. Everyone has a different breaking point.
I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA but Saving June makes me think that I’ve been missing out and I should start seeking it out more often. Recommended.