Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: November 22, 2011
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.
Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California.
Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession, and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.
Harper is such an awesome main character. She's the younger sister who has always lived in June's shadow. To compensate for not living up to the standards set by June, she doesn't really try. She's a photographer. She resents her father. Her mother frustrates her. She doesn't understand how June could leave her alone without any explanation. Lacey is an outgoing, dutiful best friend with her own complicated parental issues. She does everything that she can to ease Harper's suffering and help her find answers and peace. Jake is an interesting mystery man. He knew June, but the extent of his relationship to her is a question mark. He provides the trio's ride and soundtrack for the trip to California. He also has some issues from his past from which he is trying to move forward.
All three of these characters have the emotional depth, even without their grief and confusion at June's suicide. Their feelings are raw and realistic - love, anger, resentment, heartbreak, sadness. It is easy to relate to them on a personal level because of that.
The pacing of the book is steady. There are plenty of interesting stops along the road to provide perspective and keep the story moving. Music plays a large role in the story, and there will be plenty of songs to recognize in it even if they're only described by a lyric or a beat. There's also a soundtrack list in the back of the book, in case you don't recognize the songs!
I love the inclusion of the Latin phrase from The Handmaid's Tale as a motto for Jake and June. The road trip is wonderful because of the metaphor of it all. Jake's music and Harper's photography provide Harper with memories, based in pictures and sounds, of her trip to save June. The ending is the perfect bittersweet required for a story like this one. I'd recommend it to fans of road trips, characters with a strong connection to music, and issue novels dealing with grief.