By Hannah Harrington
Harlequin, $9.99, 322 pages

Saving June by 22-year-old Hannah Harrington is the best young-adult novel I read in 2011. Though Harrington is a young writer, her characterization is both vivid and believable; she does not use teenage drama as a crutch to propel her plot, but patiently allows her characters to develop as a beautiful, realistic story of adventure, friendship, and healing unfolds for her readers.

“I’m sorry… I know it’s not enough, but I guess this is the closest I’m going to get to saving you.”

Harper Scott, Harrington’s protagonist, is a 16-year-old girl mourning the suicide of June, her older sister. June “was always better” in the eyes of her younger sister. Harper, the “disappointment,” wonders why June was the one to slip away. Her house, filled with June’s presence and her parents’ crumbling marriage, becomes increasingly unbearable. When her parents decide to split up June’s ashes, Harper and her best friend Laney decide to steal the urn and scatter June’s ashes in the one place she always wanted to go—California.

They travel across the country in a van named Joplin, attend a wild protest, brawl at a mosh club, and eventually make it to the beautiful Pacific Ocean. An adventure from front to back, Saving June is a candid, realistic novel about healing and growing up.

Emily Davis