Harper, 16, doesn’t understand. June was the good, popular, nice sister; Harper is the unmotivated disappointment.
Harper’s family is no help: her father is with his new, younger girlfriend; her mother is either drinking too much wine or going to Church with Aunt Helen. The last straw is when her divorced parents decided to split June’s ashes into two urns, one for each of them. Harper decides to take June’s ashes to California, the place June never saw, the place she was obsessed with.
It’s a crazy plan, but luckily Harper’s best friend Laney is always up for an adventure, and Jack Tolan, the boy with the mysterious connection to June, offers up his van. The three take off to make June’s California dreams come true.
The Good: Road trip! Just your typical road trip with a boy, a girl, a best friend, a soundtrack and an urn of ashes. (Yes, I’m listening as I write this up). The road trip, like any good road trip, includes parties, a political protest, a concert, and a FridgeHenge. Of course, no road trip is just the literal getting from “here” to “there”; it’s also about the physical and psychological journey.
Harper’s internal journey is about coming to terms with who she is, not just someone who created a persona in opposition to her sister June. It’s learning to live a life without June. It’s trying to understand June; who she was, what she did, and why.
Getting to know Jake means learning more about June. It also means learning more about Jake. Harper finds herself attracted to Jake, making Harper wonder what, exactly, was the relationship between Jake and her sister and if Jake likes Harper for Harper, or just because she is June’s sister.
Harper is hurting; at times, she is prickly and rude. The journey Harper takes is not out of her grief; it’s learning how to live with her grief. Harper is fortunate to have Laney as a friend, because, well, Laney understands and when she doesn’t understand, puts up with it. She lets Harper be Harper; in return, Harper lets Laney be Laney. Like any good road trip book, each participant has their own journey, and Laney has her own path to figure out.
What else? Jake’s passion is music, all types of music (well, except for Top 40, of course!) Music is how he connects to life, and the music he shared with June, and shares with Harper, is significant. Luckily, the reader doesn’t have to go through Saving June with a highlighter. Playlists are included at the end of the book.