There's Beauty in Being Alive

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Release Date: November 2011
Publisher: Harlequin | Harlequin Teen
Pages: 322 pages
Source & Format: Library; paperback

Sum It Up
Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before her high school graduation. Not only is Harper devastated, but she's also confused. June was the poster child for good behavior. Harper never felt like she could measure up, but now she's wondering if she ever really knew her sister.

Her divorced parents want to split June's ashes, and Harper hates the thought of it. So, she decides to take off across the country with her best friend, Laney, to take June to the one place she always dreamed of going: California.

She never intends on including Jake Tolan, a bad boy with a major attitude. One moment he's charming and the next he's infuriating. But he's got a mysterious connection to June that Harper wants to figure out. Since he knows about Harper's secret road trip, he has to be included or he'll spill the beans. The trip to set June free ends up changing Harper's life, too.

By Its Cover: Sets the Tone
I've got no complaints about this cover. It's not cheesy, and it's not depressing. I like the scattered petals and the figure walking away in all black. I think it helps set the tone for the rest of the book. Bonus: it's not embarrassing to read in public. This cover definitely doesn't scream YA, which is a plus for me.

Amen, Sister Friend: Hard to Love But Glad to Know
I thought Harper was kind of a hard character to love, but it was still worth getting to know her. Does that make sense? She's rough around the edges. She pushes people away. She breaks the rules and gets in trouble. But she also sticks by the people she loves and blames herself for things that are out of her control.

She's lived her life being compared to June and never measuring up. When June commits suicide, it changes Harper's identity, too. She's no longer the only daughter that has disappointed her parents. As her mom falls apart under her grief, Harper manages to keep moving and living.

Even though she's prickly, I liked getting to know her. I don't know if I'd want to be her friend, but she grew on me more as the book progressed.

Literary Love: Not My Kind of Bad Boy
Harper meets Jake on the day of her sister's funeral. He's definitely, without question, a bad boy. I've read several reviews that really praised Jake (and the romance) in this book. However, I'm not big on the bad boy, and Jake just wasn't doing it for me. He has his sweet and sensitive moments, but he was also kind of a jerk and total pain in the ass for a lot of the book.

His relationship with Harper has lots of sexual tension, which basically meant they argued a ton and were pissed at each other. And then they weren't. And then they were. And so forth and so on. I think there are a lot of readers who will eat this romance up. Just because I wasn't all swoony doesn't mean you won't be!

Word Nerd: Sarcastic & Realistic
There were two things I really liked about the writing in this book:

1. Harper's sarcasm. In a book about grief, it can be easy to veer into cheesy territory. Even when Harper's being obnoxious, she's still pretty funny. I liked that Harrington wrote a book that felt like it was an authentic look at a teenager's grief - both its angst and its moments of snark.

2. The role music played. The characters in this book love music, and they love talking about it. There are even playlists included at the very end of the book so you can experience it for yourself. I loved how Harrington made music important in the book, and it was fun to read about different bands (and then go look some songs up on my own).

Extra, Extra: Road Trips & Playlists
I have to give it bonus points for the fact that there is a road trip - and playlists for the drive! 

So Quotable
"Some people think that a place can save them... Like if they could just be somewhere else, their lives would be totally different. They could finally be the people they always wanted to be. But to me, a place is just a place. If you really want things to change, you can make them change no matter where you are."

Bottom Line: Frustrating but Interesting
I think my main problem with this book was the characters. Because they were driving me crazy the whole time I was reading, I didn't completely connect to the story. I also read this immediately after The Sky is Everywhere - another book about a girl losing her sister - which I really loved. I think that reading that one first affected my feelings about this book because it was like I was comparing the two in my head. Despite my frustrations with it, Saving June was still an interesting read and I know it will be great for certain readers. 


  1. Great review, Hannah! I just got approved for this on Netgalley and I am looking forward to it. I agree that the cover is great and I'm glad you enjoyed getting to know Harper. Also, music being mentioned is a bonus!

    1. Yes, if you like music you'll love a lot of this book! The playlists were such a fun addition. Even though I didn't love everything about it, I think it's something a lot of people will really connect to. I'm excited to see what you think of it!

  2. I'm with you on this review. I liked certain aspects of the book -- the road trip, the music, the emotion in it -- but I just really did not like Jake. I never really felt like the romance was believable because there was too much annoyance between Harper and Jake. I guess they could still be physically attracted to each other while emotionally driving each other crazy but those relationships aren't "romantic" to me.

    1. YES EXACTLY! I'm not opposed to bad boys, but I'm realizing that I often prefer the "bad boys" in TV shows (Ben in Felicity, Jess in Gilmore Girls, Chuck on Gossip Girl) rather than in books. I can't figure out why that is! But anyway, yeah it just didn't seem that romantic to me. I totally agree with you :)

  3. I really like the cover on this one. If I find it I'll probably read it. I like your review style - you cover pretty much everything.

    1. Thanks! That's my goal with my review - cover as much as I can :)

  4. Okay, I legit love reading about love-hate romances so I think I'll really eat up the Jake-Harper relationship.


    Fabulous review, I can't wait to read Saving June!

    1. If you love reading about love-hate romances, you've definitely got to read Saving June! It will be right up your alley :)

      And yes, several pages of playlists in fact!

      I'm excited to see what you think once you've read it!

  5. Hmm... now I feel like I need to bump this up my to-read list. All I know, is that my little sister read it & then drove to my house to hug me. Haha.

    1. Haha I can totally see why your sister would drive over and hug you! It made me want to go love on my sister, too. I feel like I bump stuff up on my to-read list so often that everything eventually ends up right back where it started haha! Can't wait to see what you think of this one :)

  6. Replies
    1. Thanks, Juju! You know I'm going to have to use this quote for So Quotable one day :) It's too good not to use it!

  7. Lovely review! I'm constantly hearing praise for this book, and while I'm always hesitant to pick up something I know will be emotionally heavy, it also sounds wonderful. Sorry to hear the romance didn't really do it for you, I'm normally not a bad boy girl either, so I may feel the same! Agree with April though, road trips + playlists makes just about any book better!

    I saw the paperback cover recently and am not feeling it nearly so much as this one.

    1. Yeah, there were parts of this that really stood out and grabbed hold of me. There were other things that didn't work as well (for me) but that I've read other people saying they absolutely loved the romance in this one. I'll be really interested to see where you land on it! It's definitely still worth reading, and I hope you do! There are actually several pages of playlists... Does that convince you to read it? :)

      And I hate when one version of a cover is way better than the other. It's annoying sometimes when I see a book with a totally different cover that either doesn't fit anymore or fits way better than the version I read/own. Hah!


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