Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saving June (review)

3.5/5 stars

This is one of those books that I liked well enough, but didn't love. There are sections of this novel that are well done and that I really like. Then there are parts that just feel unnecessary.

The grief in the beginning felt real. When I was a senior in college my fifteen year old cousin committed suicide. The grief from suicide is hard to explain. I was not even close to my cousin and his death really shook me. So Harper in the beginning, trying to find a way to cope and failing miserably, I can relate to. When all the people are shoving food at her family as though it's going to fill the void and she just wants to hide, that's when Harper really works for me. She consumed by this overwhelming grief and trying to understand June's decision to commit suicide. She's hurt, pissed off and most importantly she misses her sister.

But then there was a lot that felt forced. A lot of the side adventures along the road trip, I just felt eh towards. Suddenly they are at a random protest and all these hipster teenagers are rambling on about their oh so alternative viewpoints. Oh they are vegans. Oh there's an anti-war protest. Oh I'm a weird-melodramatic artist. It felt unnecessary. Grief is a big enough issue to tackle without trying to throw a dash of everything else in.

As the road trip continued, there were more sections that seemed forced. Obligatory debates about music, random punk rock show and then some random band invites a 16 year-old-girl back to their bus to party. That's as much as I can say without major spoilers.

This novel felt a little too hipster for me. The characters were all just so different (without ever really seeming that different to me). They didn't like the mainstream, they wore vintage clothes, skinny jeans and collected vinyl records. The thing is, hipsters kind of bug me.

I'm all about being yourself. I went through a slight punk phase, there's still a hole in my lip (never wear the ring because well...grown-up), I've had pink streaks, purple streaks, hung out at concerts, albeit Christian concerts. But hipsters seem...more pretentious than we ever were. They seem to be purposely avoiding trends, even things they like that become trendy. In high school we were just having fun. At best it was minor rebellion but I'm not even sure I'd call it that anymore. In retrospect, it was small town boredom. I still remember when my town got a Waffle House and it was a Big Freaking Deal.

I don't want it to sound like a bash-fest on this novel. Like I said, the initial grief really caught me. I cared about saving June, about the road trip to California to set her sister free. That whole storyline worked for me. Grief, like Harper, is selfish and complicated. It's a big mess of emotion that's hard to capture, but the book did a good job. That alone could've carried this novel and brought it up from a 3.5 star (which is a good novel). The potential is there but I felt like there were too many distractions along the way.

There's a chance I'm a little too old for this book. I think people who are more musically and artistically inclined will enjoy all the tidbits that I found off-putting. Maybe I'm not hip enough for this book. For me I just liked it. I'd recommend it as a good YA that deals with grief. Because of the subject matter I wanted to love it more than I was actually able to.

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