Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Saving June by Hannah Harrington **Review** [Blog Tour Stop] & Author Guest Post

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Series: None
Pages: 322
Publisher: Mira Ink
Release date: 1st June 2012
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add it on Goodreads
Thanks to Mira Ink for my copy of the book

Goodreads synopsis:
‘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.’
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.

The first thing that I feel is important for me to say at the beginning of this review, is that I absolutely adored this book! I want to make that perfectly clear before we go on, so that you know immediately where I stand, and hopefully you will care enough to read on and discover exactly why I loved it so much. I'm hoping you'll give me the chance to convince you to read this, because I honestly believe you need to.

When I picked this book up to read, I had expected to quite enjoy it - I'm really loving YA contemporary at the moment, and I've never read anything that involves an American road trip (and being as interested as I am in America, this was a fairly big selling point for me - even though I knew that it was likely to be a romanticised version of a road trip). I knew that it would probably be a fairly good read - but I wasn't expecting to love it. Maybe this is one of the reasons that I ended up loving it even more - I was honestly surprised when I found myself falling so head-over-heels in love with it - but it definitely happened!

I think that what I enjoyed most about this book was the range of characters, and how well they were developed. A book can be made or broken by its characters, and Hannah Harrington is evidently the queen when it comes to creating great voices in a novel.
I'll start with Harper - the protagonist of the novel, and the character whose voice we hear the story from. She was the perfect leading character; open and honest about how she felt, and she leads the reader through the story with a clear sense of purpose - once she's decided what she wants to do, she won't stop until it's done. She's also incredibly thoughtful, opinionated (in a good way), intelligent, decisive, strong-minded and definitely feisty! I fell entirely in love with her quite early on in the novel, and by the end, had an unshakable respect for her.
Even though she was only 16, she was very mature for her age, which is another thing I loved about her. What I do find quite often, is that as I'm reading YA fiction as an adult, this can sometimes mean that I am easily irritated by the main characters and the lack of thought they put into their actions - it's usually very much a case of blundering blindly through, making everything out to be a bigger drama than it is, and realising their mistakes far too late, then having to make up for them. And whining a lot - there is usually a lot of teen angst and moaning.
Harper showed none of this. As Jake so elequently put it, she 'didn't throw herself a pity party', even when she clearly deserved one, and she always put her friend, Laney, before herself, despite her own gigantic problems. I think she may go down as one of my favourite female characters of all time!

Jake is another mention-worthy character. I don't think I've ever come across another character like him - especially male. He wasn't just there as an excuse for a romantic sub-plot, he had a real purpose, and he definitely had a strong sense of personality. We first meet Jake at the wake for June (Harper's sister, who we never see alive - she commits suicide before the novel begins - not a spoiler as it mentions this in every synopsis you will read for the book), and he doesn't even try bothering with the put-on sympathy act, when coming into contact with Harper for the first time. He's p*ssed off, and he doesn't care if Harper knows it. Incidentally, this is something that Harper appreciates - it's a welcome break from being embraced by random strangers, when she doesn't want to be touched - just left alone. So we know immediately that he's not afraid of having his true feelings known, and 'true', broadly speaking, is a fairly good way to describe his actions throughout the rest of the book. We know that he is keeping something from Harper, but otherwise it's obvious that he definitely doesn't 'beat around the bush' - he's honest, even if it may cause the recipient of his nuggets of truth, some pain. This makes him ultimately trustworthy, and put him with Harper, and he even becomes swoon-worthy. Jake and Harper together are even better than on their own. They definitely have a weird kind of chemistry going on between them, and the little sarcastic quips they throw at each other are ridiculously entertaining - as is watching their relationship evolve and grow. I really wanted things to work out between them!
Another great thing about Jake, that really set him apart from any other character, was his passion for classic rock music, or 'good' music, as he would call it. He believed that music can speak to you in a way that nothing else can, and that it is the only thing that can make sense of your emotions. I loved the musical passion that ran as a 'soundtrack' beneath the plot of this novel - it was pretty much woven into every part of the book (there's even a couple of soundtracks at the back of the book - one of which I made into a youtube playlist, that you can listen to at the bottom of this review). It just made Jake's character (and the book) into something with an entirely unique atmosphere to it.

I feel as though I kind of need to stop gushing over the characters, and talk a little about the plot. From the synopsis, it may seem as though the road trip to California would reveal more about June than it actually does. Yes, we learn a little more about June, but the truth of it is that it's more of a personal journey for Harper, than it is a journey for her sister, in some ways. June wanted to go to California (before she died), as a kind of escape - to get away from whatever it was that was bothering her at home - but she didn't make it there alive. Harper, on the other hand, finds her own escape in taking June's ashes there, and I think she kind of finds herself along the way as well. She'd always felt as though she was being constantly compared to June, and that she couldn't possibly live up to her, but she discovers that she doesn't want to be, and really comes into her own during their road trip.
This is really what the plot entailed; Harper's 'self-discovery', her dealing with the grief of losing her sister, and trying to piece together what happened. But there is also the blossoming romance. If you've read my reviews/posts before, you may know that I do like sideline of romance in the books I read, and as I've already said, the relationship between Harper and Jake is nothing, if not swoon-worthy!

So yeah, I've talked about characters and relationships a lot, but that's really because that is what the novel is all about. This is what, I think, makes it special, and what makes it beautiful. Beautiful, poignant and unforgettable are, without a doubt, the three perfect words to describe Saving June, and I implore you to read it. I won't forget this novel for a very, very long time.

Saving June Playlist from the book: Nolite te Bastardes Corborundorum

We're lucky enough, here at Pen to Paper, to be able to take part in the blog tour for Saving June. This means that I am able to bring you this very special guest post from Hannah herself, where she talks about writing Saving June. So, without further delay, I shall leave you in her capable hands!

It took me exactly three months to the day to write the first draft of Saving June – which is probably not very long compared to some other authors. I had never attempted to write a novel before; I had never written anything close to it in terms of length. All I really had when I sat down to start was the idea, and a very minimal outline scribbled out on post-its.

Sometimes I get asked what the most difficult part of writing Saving June was, and the truth is that the first draft was actually very easy for me to write. It wasn’t all effortless, of course, but I wrote the entire story in linear form and didn’t even feel the need to skip around too much—which I often do when working on projects. Maybe it’s because the road trip worked as a device to keep me on track and give me a literal path to the narrative. Which isn’t to say I didn’t have any struggles while writing it, because I definitely did. A lot of times I’d have to stop myself and ask, “What are the characters doing here? What should they be talking about? Is this moving the story forward enough? Is it letting us get to know who they are?” The beginning and the endings were both very concrete in my mind. The middle was much more nebulous, so trying to figure out what should be happening and why it should be happening were the most challenging aspects of writing the first draft. I wanted to do more than just fill space; I wanted those parts to be equally as important as the bookends.

The scenes I probably spent the most time on were the ones I considered most pivotal: Harper and Jake finally coming together, the spreading of June’s ashes, and the reveal of Jake’s secret. These were the scenes I felt had the highest emotional stakes, so I spent a lot of time going over them to make sure I thought they hit the right beats and struck the chord they needed to—but one thing I found was that it was surprisingly easy to write those scenes. By the time I’d gotten to those emotional climaxes, I had a whole history between the characters to build off of, and everything seemed to fall into place. I didn’t want to overthink it too much; I just wanted those scenes to unfold as the story had earned them to. I hope very much that that is what they accomplished for the readers.

It was definitely a bit of a roller coaster writing Saving June, but I like to think in the end it all pulled together!


Tabitha said...

I'm so glad that you loved this one! It was definitely one of my favorite of this last year.

The music aspect to this book was great, I loved how it actually had a purpose with the story and wasn't just there to make it seem cool I guess? Anyways... Great review!

Jenn Renee said...

I am very interested in reading this book. Great review!

Read, Write, Read said...

I'm sold. I really want to read this book, like right now! I think I need to push this up on my reading list, Great review! :)

Pen to Paper said...

Yay! I'm so glad my review is convincing you to read it! It's definitely going to be right up at the top of my list of favourites for the year!

Dani :)

kimbacaffeinate said...

This sounds like such a fun read..i haven't tried any contemporary YA..but your review has piqued my interest. Awesome review..so glad you loved it.

Megan @ Books and Teacups said...

Ahhh awesome review! I just won this via the Mira Ink FB page - sooo excited! :) You make it sounds amazing :D

So many books, so little time said...

I love it when you find a book that gets you like this, great review.

Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

Book Passion for Life said...

Great post Dani!

caroline.taylor078 said...

Great review and another good book to look out for. I commented on your video review of New Girl on youtube and said I was going to check your blog out, well here I am and I love the blog, saved it to my favourites and will be visiting regularly!:)

Eli Yanti said...

nice review and i love the cover too :)

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