Saving June by Hannah Harrington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the past year, at least for me, all the rage in YA contemporary fiction can be condensed in one word: Australia. Marchetta, Buzo, Cath Crawley, Eagar were definitely my favorite reads this year.
Hannah Harrington is the exception that proves the rule. This lady is American and what is more, Saving June is her debut novel.
Harper's life is in pieces. Her sister June unexplainably committed suicide a few weeks before graduating and her family is, quite understandably, a wreck. There's no rhyme nor reason to what June did and while Harper's mother is having a breakdown and her father blissfully ignores them, too busy with his own new life, Harper is the one left to pick up the pieces and try to cope with her terrible, profound grief. The only person that supports her 100% is her best friend Laney. When a mysterious and unbearably annoying guy appears at June's funeral wake, things start to unravel in an unexpected way: with Jake's help, the two girls embark on a road trip through America, on a symbolical mission to June's final salvation, which eventually will turn into an experience that will change each and every one of them to their very core.
As for everyone else, some books strike me more than others. Sometimes it's even without a concrete or logical reason, I just get involved in the plot more. And then, sometimes, rarely, there are books that fit me like a glove. I become so engrossed in the story and identify so much with the characters that I realize that I would have uttered the same words in the same situations.
It happened with me and Harper.
Harper is not what you would call a really likable character. Aside from being unable to cope with her grief, she is bad-tempered, complex, full of anger, shuts out others, hides her insecurities behind a mask of snark and backtalk, constantly controls her emotions by denying herself the luxury to feel.
Yet I loved her honest voice, her no-nonsense attitude which I really much share to the point of sounding cynical and callous, her complete loyalty to her friend and how she relates to her sexuality. She is a tough one, not invincible, but a survivor.
This is how I like my contemporary fiction: a more adult type of YA literature, where there's no excessive taboo about underage sex, drinking or smoking (because that's what teens do, don't they?), where painful and complex themes are touched but coated with a bit of humor, where fragile family dynamics are analyzed but with a lot of great dialogue and banter.
Add to this a truly memorable soundtrack of songs which I grew up with (no unknown pseudo-intellectual indie niche music, just plain good old rock) and an incredible adventure (how cool would it be to cross the US with a van?) and you got yourself a winning combination.
Oh, did I mention the totally hot guy? + 10 points
And did I mention there is no instalove? + ∞ points
An emotional roller coaster which will make you laugh out loud but most probably shed a few tears too. People who have dealt with the death of loved ones will certainly relate to Harper and the Saving June amazing cast.
To Harrington I'd like to say: keep up the good work. Truly amazing.
An advanced copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher.
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