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Going To California With An Aching In My Heart

Forever Young Adult presents: A review of Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Going To California With An Aching In My Heart

BOOK REPORT for Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Cover Story: Role Model
BFF Charm: Hell's Bells, Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 9
Talky Talk: Self-aware Snark
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude, Road Trip, Mixtapes, Safe Sex
Relationship Status: New Boyfriend

Cover Story: Role Model

Check it, y'all - a cover that's not as humiliating as dropping your tray in the cafeteria! Even though I expect to see an Oprah's Book Club sticker on this one, I still think publishers need to take note. It's pretty and dreamy and looks like something a grownup could read. The Australian cover's pretty sweet, too.

The Deal:

A few days before graduation, Harper's older sister June killed herself. June was the perfect one -- perfect hair, perfect grades, perfect attitude -- and Harper spent her whole life trying to be Not June. After the suicide, she questions just how perfect June's life really was, especially after finding out how much it hurt June to crush her dreams of going to California just to make her parents happy, and finding a mix CD full of music June would never listen to from a boy she can't imagine June ever meeting. Her mother is slowly drinking herself to death, despite the best efforts of her Bible-thumping aunt to Save her Soul, and before Harper can talk herself out of it, she is on a mission to take June's ashes to California. Joined by her best friend Laney and mix-CD boy (also known as Jake), Harper hopes the road trip will help her learn more about June. She ends up learning a lot about herself.

BFF Charm: Hell's Bells, Yes

It might not be the best idea to give Harper a BFF charm, because we would get in too much trouble together, but I'm going to do it anyway. She's bitchy, cranky, and prickly, she smokes and she can't hold her liquor, but she's also hilarious, loyal, and way too hard on herself. I'd not just support her if she told off her awful, Bible-beating aunt, I'd probably throw in a few insults of my own. Watching Harper figure out who she is -- Harper, not just Not June -- was delightful. Also: Just quit smoking already! It's gross!

Swoonworthy Scale: 9

For the first bit of this book, I was worried it was going to be a sneaky Jesus book. There was quite a bit of philosophical "is there a god" talk, which is definitely authentic given both the age of the characters and the awful experience of losing a sister to suicide, but coupled with the obnoxious Bible-thumping aunt, I was apprehensive. I could just see it veering into "and then I found the Lord and was saved and never smoked again and was a good daughter forever" kind of book. Lucky for all of us, it ended up being a SMOKING HOT book instead! I knew I picked a Harlequin book for a reason! The relationship between Harper and Jake is full of tension, since their only connection is June and they both are working through their grief and guilt over her death, and we all know sexual tension is the best way into a lady's panties. Jake's the quintessential bad boy, all secretly sensitive and hot, and the only reason I deducted a point is because he thinks the Doors' Soft Parade is good sexin' music. Everyone knows if you're going for "ironic", cheeky mood music, stay away from Marvin Gaye and Jim Morrison's "Touch Me" and go with LL Cool J.

Talky Talk: Self-aware Snark

Harper has every right to be self absorbed and angsty, but she saves the story from maudlin depths with sarcastic asides and an awareness of just how easy it would be to wallow ("Between the three of us, we have enough fodder for a year's worth of Lifetime made-for-television movies, easy,").

"Harper," [Mom] says, voice slightly slurred. "I'm sorry about the eggs. I wanted you to have something to eat."

It's sweet, really, that she almost burned down the house in a drunken stupor for the sake of my appetite. Fucked up, but sweet. I hope this doesn't become a habit, though. She drank a lot after Dad left. I thought we were done with that.

There were so many times I turned an eyeroll into an embarrassing snort -- the characters are classic high school kids who think they're the first in the world to go through a 60s revival phase, with political protests and Jimi Hendrix worship, and it would have been almost painful to read (um, not because it was familiar or anything ...) if it weren't for Harrington's self-aware style. She's writing along, and just when Jake or Harper get obnoxious, Harrington peeks around the corner and winks, as if she's saying, "I know, right? These two are so ridiculous!" like when Laney calls Jake a "douche-baggy hipster music snob with the tastes of a forty-year-old white guy," just as I was about to go crazy if I had to read another discourse on the relative merits of the Rolling Stones versus John Coltrane (for the record, they're both great).

And then sometimes, she's just plain funny. See why Harper gets a shiny BFF charm?

Aunt Helen scowls. That's the I Am Silently Judging You look -- I recognize it because it's the same expression Laney has when she sees people wearing black and blue together, or the look I myself have when people pontificate on the brilliance of Ayn Rand. Aunt Helen is currently wearing a navy cardigan and black slacks. Figures. I wonder what her feelings are on The Fountainhead.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Jake is the consummate MLD -- he lives with his older brother above a record store, he has a tragic past, he's anti-authority, he almost failed out of school (because he didn't see the point, not because he couldn't read). But he's secretly sensitive and caring and recognizes Harper's amazingness, and he wants to see her happy and successful, and he's not actually the fuck-up everyone assumes he is. Do these guys actually exist, outside of high school girls' dreams and season 6 of Gilmore Girls?

Bonus Factor: Road Trip

Ah, the great American metaphor for self discovery -- a cross-country trek with your BFF and a hot guy with whom you may or may not end up falling in love.

Bonus Factor: Mixtapes

I'm a sucker for a well-crafted mixtape. You can communicate so much through the choice of songs -- love, a crush, encouragement -- and you absolutely cannot embark on a road trip without a couple of good mixtapes. I'll admit I totally spazzed out when I got to the end and saw Harrington included the playlists for the mix CDs mentioned in the book (with everything from Sam Cooke to Tupac)Going To California with an aching in my heart.

Bonus Factor: Safe Sex

This does not happen enough, and when it does it either reads like a Planned Parenthood pamphlet or involves magical no-baby herbs that provide absolutely no protection against STDs. Hello, a baby is TOTALLY not the worst thing that can come out of unprotected sex! Anyway, it's handled perfectly here.

Casting Call:

Milo Ventimiglia as Jake

He's about 80 billion times too old for the part, but I just could not get Jess (season 6, plz) out of my head for Jake.

Ethan Peck as Jake

But I could be persuaded to cast Ethan Peck instead. Actually, casting this whole thing was really tough because I wanted to cast older actors for all the parts, like:

Amber Tamblyn as Harper

Busy Phillips as Laney

But I'll go with:

Christa B. Allen as Harper

Bridgit Mendler as Laney

Relationship Status: New Boyfriend

I love being around this book so much. It's funny and interesting and -- best of all -- hot, and I'm totally blowing off all my girlfriends so I can hang out with it. We text each other all day, and I can't stop telling stories about it. I think my friends are ready to kill me because I won't stop talking about the cute way it brushes its hair out of its eyes, or the funny thing it said on the phone last night, or what a great kisser it is, but I know as soon as they meet it they'll see why I'm so gooey.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Harlequin Teen, via Netgalley. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!).Saving June is available November 22 (tomorrow!), unless you're a lucky Aussie, in which case it's already available.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.