I usually tend to avoid books that deal with suicide for two reasons; as a person who has gone through (and will keep going through with it for the rest of my life) the suicide of someone close to me, books like this always bring up memories and feelings I try to bury as deep as possible. The second reason is that I always feel like these books are not very realistic portrayals of the type of grief that really cannot be even described in words. I feel like you almost have to have gone through the pain through yourself to fully understand it. I don't know what is the case with Harrington, but she really was able to hit close with this one.
Harper's big sister June has committed suicide. Harper was the one who found her. Always the "second" best to her divorced parents, she is now the only one left. When her divorced parents decide to divide June's ashes between themselves, Harper makes a drastic move and "steals" the urn in order to spread her sister's ashes to California, the place June always dreamed about. With the company of her best friend Laney, who is fighting a fight with her own issues, and mysterious Jake music lover Jake, Harper embarks on a journey to get some type of closure to both herself and June.
It took me quite a while to get into this book. It was not because it was bad, not at all. It was just because it was so emotional and hit so close to home. I really liked Harper - she is strong, but also extremely confused. She does not really know how to handle her grief and thus for half the time she feels more angry than sad. I was able to relate with Harper - she wants answers, but at the same time she is scared to face the truth. She blames herself even though she deep down knows that there probably was nothing she could have done. She hopes that she would have said something or known that her sister was so sad.
What I also really liked was the fact that there never are really any complete reasons given to why June killed herself. In some of the books I have read about suicide the reasons have been so concrete and in some ways so carefully constructed that they don't really feel very realistic. June killed herself because she was sad - why she was sad is never fully explained. The type of sadness and desperation that a person must feel in order to actually commit suicide must be something that cannot be fully explained - it might be one big thing, or a combination of small things that just start to feel too heavy and eventually there is no other way out. Some say that suicide is one of the most selfish things a person can ever do, and I completely agree with that. But in some sick, twisted way suicide is also one of the bravest things you can do - the result hurts the people you leave behind, but it probably also gives some closure.
The relationship between Harper and Jake develops slowly, which I really liked because of the fact that it shows that Harper has other things in her mind that just how gorgeous Jake is. He knew June, probably in a different way than Harper, but he gets the sadness and the feel of loss. Sometimes people have the need to compare who is the saddest and whose grief is the largest. In my family my grandmother is always the one who at the moment of loss says to be the one who is the saddest and who has lost the most. But how can we really measure grief? Of course the loss of a child most probably is the hardest on the parents. But what about the loss of a friend? Is your grief smaller if you are not related? Can you grief for someone you did not personally know? I feel like this book really digs into that issue, discussing the different levels of grief people feel as well as the ways they cope with them. Everyone copes differently and talk about it in different ways, but in the end, the source of the grief is the same.
Even though Saving June might sound like a perfect summer read, I would not recommend it as a book for the beach or holiday. It truly is sad and I at least found myself crying during the final couple of chapters. It has an element of romance on it, but it is not one of those stories with instalove and several romantic moments many readers want to read during the summer. The love in this book hurts, but it also helps the characters grow and become stronger. It is a story about the anger you feel after losing someone, the want to die, but also the want to keep going even though it hurts. It also opens your eyes to a grief that I hope not many have to go through during their lifetime - all death is sad, of course, but personally to me suicide has always been the saddest way to die because the one who died must have been so completely alone that he/she did not see any other option than to leave.