I believe my review might be slightly jaded due to a case of overhype, but Saving June didn’t live up to the high expectations I held for it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as diligent as I ought to have been and have delayed this review for several weeks, so the details of the novel aren’t fresh in my mind. Suffice it to say, I was never able to immerse myself in
Harper’s world, let alone in the pain she felt from losing her sister. Perhaps it was Harrington’s goal in portraying Harper to keep those feelings isolated and hidden not only from Harper, who has trouble acknowledging her emotions, but from readers as well. However, even at pivotal points where I suspected Harrington was attempting to unveil Harper’s grief, it was told but never shown. I can appreciate a stoic character, even a taciturn one, but if I can’t get inside of her head even a little bit, it is very hard for me to sympathize with her. I never disliked Harper, but nor did I particularly care for her; her vulnerabilities never manifested to the point of liabilities, and her mistakes never really came back to haunt her.
As a fan of road trip narratives, I felt that Harrington’s depictions of Harper’s journey with her friends fell rather flat as well. I was rather more interested in Laney’s story than in Harper’s at many points, and I don’t think that Harrington did justice to Laney’s character as the events resolve. While I suspect that many people were drawn in by Jake, I was never sold on his character and was disappointed in Harrington’s abrupt development of his relationship with Harper. As with Laney’s story, I would rather have read about his relationship with June than with Harper, which is perhaps another mark against Harper herself rather than the story in general. While the grieving-sister-finding-love-in-mysterious-musician worked so well in Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, it failed to capture me here. I’m never a fan of musician heroes, as I believe authors replace emotional depth with musical knowledge and expect the inherent sexiness to mask any lack of personality and connection between the characters. Saving June reminded me of why this formula rarely works for me, as Harrington never reveals anything substantive or important or true about Jake.
As a side quibble, I understand that perhaps today’s generation of teenagers is not as interested in classic rock as I was during my teenage years, but the utter ignorance of the characters in young adult literature as to musicians such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix is incomprehensible. I don’t expect the entirety of the teen generation to listen to them, but I refuse to believe that teens today are so sheltered that they don’t even know who these musical legends are. This facet of the story thoroughly annoyed me here, and nearly prevented me from finishing Antony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb a few weeks ago.
Overall, I wasn’t impressed by Harrington’s first effort, though I believe that she has the talent to improve upon her next release.