When June commits suicide, her younger sister is left in a quandary. June was always the perfect one, the one from whom everyone had the most expectations. To be different, Harper was everything that June wasn’t – a rebel, hiding her insecurities behind black nail paint and smoking cigarettes on the sly. June’s suicide leaves her shocked, because it was completely unexpected; she doesn’t know how to react or what to do; she’s unable to cry or grieve; she’s panicked and numb. The only thing she knows is that she somehow has to “save” June, help her to finally, in death, get away from her small town existence to California, where June had always wanted to go but wasn’t ever able to. So with the help of her best friend Laney, she hatches a plan to somehow take her sister’s ashes to California.
Jake used to know June. The school had set him up with her for tutoring. She helped him with his studies, encouraged him to go on when he wanted to quit, and they developed a friendly relationship. When he overhears Harper and Laney talking about taking June’s ashes to California, he offers to drive them across the country. Since they can see no other way to accomplish what they want to, they accept.
What follows is an interesting road trip across America. They make a side stop to take part in a student protest, visit Fridgehedge – a Stonehedge like sculpture done up with old, used refrigerators – and take in a rock concert quite by chance, before finally reaching California. During the trip, Harper is finally able to come to terms with herself, accept June’s suicide, and grieve her death. But the one thing she cannot fathom is why June didn’t at least leave a note. Or did she?
The novel has a strong grounding in music. In fact, at the end, there’s a list of all the songs that played a part in the story. The musical aspect of the book and the road trip lighten the heavy theme of suicide somewhat.
Harper is a difficult character to like. She’s been a rebel without a cause, and even though she realizes that with her sister’s death something needs to change, she refuses to give up her rebellious ways. Her decision to take her sister’s ashes, the only thing that her parents have left of her, also seems heartless. In some ways, it’s a struggle to like her.
There’s no closure to June’s story either. Why would a girl with the perfect life commit suicide? To get away from the perfection? That, to me, seems ungrateful. Some other plot points seem to be introduced just to create conflict between the characters, but overall, the story flows along smoothly. The characters have also been developed well, even though they may not always be easy to like or understand.
Overall, I’d say it’s a fairly interesting YA story, you could give it a try.