Coming Out: November 22, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Kristi (The Story Siren)
Age Group: Young Adult
Recommended for Ages
14 and up
mild sexual content
When model student June Scott kills herself on the brink of high school graduation, no one is more shocked than her sixteen-year-old sister Harper. Things go from bad to worse after her nosy evangelical aunt moves in to take care of her mom, and when her estranged parents decide to split June’s ashes between them, it’s the last straw. Harper knows she has to take serious action— action that takes form in plotting with her best friend to spread the ashes in the one place June always wanted to live: the California coast.
Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a classic rock obsession, a bad attitude, and nothing in common with straight-laced June. But after he crashes June’s wake, Harper is sure he knows more about her sister than he’s letting on. Her suspicions only deepen when he discovers the plan to steal the urn and decides he wants in, for reasons he’s none too forthcoming to explain.
Of course, once they’re on the road, things don’t go as smoothly as she’d hoped. First there’s a brush with the law during an anti-war protest gone bad. And if it’s not trying to avoid arrest, it’s dealing with angry threats from parents, public brawls in underground punk clubs, and more accidental detours than Harper can count.
Complicating things even more is her growing attraction to Jake; she’s drawn to his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor, and his unwavering faith in the idea that music can see you through anything. It might be exactly what she needs.
What Harper doesn’t know is that he has a secret with the power to turn her life upside-down— again.
When Kristi sent me this book, I picked it up, thinking that it wouldn’t normally be one that I would have picked out for myself. I read the back, and was instantly hooked by the heartbreaking synopsis.
The characters in this were fantastically written. They were honest and they gave me a provocative inside look at the grief they were dealing with.
Harper is sure to be relatable to anybody who has experienced grief. Her method of dealing with it was different than most, though. She was confused, and devastated, and feeling guilty about the last things she said to June. She was tender, raw, and sweet at the same time, and I loved that about her.
Laney and Jake were perfectly balanced out in the story. Laney was the type of girl who was loyal, but couldn’t help but be a little shallow sometimes. Throughout the book, she goes through her own troubles and becomes even closer (if possible) to Harper. She looked out for Harper’s best interests. She was the type of best friend that I loved to read about because she truly loved Harper and would do anything for her.
Jake was a mystery, slowly unveiled throughout the book. Providing romantic tension, side trips, and action throughout the book, he was perfect in the role he played. Both with June and with Harper, the book wouldn’t have been the same without him.
Jake’s passion for music reminded me of Owen in Just Listen or Adam from If I Stay. It provided a common denominator for many people throughout the book, reinforced emotions, added to his backstory, and caused the introduction of many interesting people.
You know that a writer is great at crafting characters when you get so frustrated or angry at one that you want to scream. That’s actually realistic. Not every character can be perfectly pleasant. Some people in this were like that for me, and it made the book so much better.
The plot was perfectly paced. It was fully original, sensitive, and moving. The emphasis on family and friends helping you through grief was very realistic as well. The casserole bit reminded me of a monologue of Ethan’s in Beautiful Creatures and that made me laugh. The romance and friendship in this book added the perfect touch to an already amazing story.
The side-trips of Harper, Jake, and Laney literally made this book. I loved hearing about “Fridgehenge” and the description of the protest. Jake’s friends were amusing and they weren’t afraid to be completely open with each other. It was refreshing.
I must admit that some of the references went right over my head, but some adults who read this will probably love them. Obscure bands, histories, and jokes made the book one of the rare crossovers that make adults who don’t favor young adult want to pick this up.
Hannah’s writing was lovely, with touching and poignant prose. She connected with the reader (me) and made a great plot into a spectacular book.
On a more personal note, I can’t imagine going through what Harper did. I can’t imagine losing a sister, to suicide no less. I have been through a startling death but I can’t imagine it if it were a suicide.
Last July, on the 29th, my grandfather was riding his bike back from rowing. He was one of the healthiest people that my family knew. He was a good person, head of veteran’s affairs, and a veteran of the Navy himself. While crossing the street, he was hit by a car. Although wearing a helmet, he died.
None of us were prepared for something like that. My family was heartbroken. He was supposed to live so long. His mother died on the same day (on the 29th) the November before. It took ages to get past the grief and even now my family is more fragile than before.
This book rang a personal note with me, and I know that I won’t forget it.
Also, being a twin, I completely understand what Harper was talking about with the comparisons. Being twins, people often think of us as two halves of a person, and ignore us as individuals.
I’m so tired of being an –er. People will call one twin “smarter” and the other is compared as “dumber”. “Tanner” to “paler”. “Shyer” to “Friendlier”.
I understood what she meant when she said she hated being compared. People have a tendency to pick one person who they like better. If we were two different people, not related, or even simply sisters, people would treat us differently and look at both of us and see the positives.
The formatting was perfect. I loved the playlists thrown in at the end, and the arguments of music politics within it. I enjoyed the letters and songs stuck in, and the cover is perfectly suited for the book.
Overall, this book is one that I will not forget. Beautifully written, with a brilliant story, and intense characters, this one is not a book to be missed.
Recommended for anybody who loves: Revolution; Two-Way Street; Between Here and Forever; Siren; The Year My Sister Got Lucky; Just Listen; If I Stay; books about grief; intense books; sisters; contemporary; etc,.
Possible book club questions:
How do you think it affected Harper personally by being the one to find June?
Think back to the protest. Do you think Anna and Laney were just trying to prove a point?
Harper brings up God a lot in her grief. Is this a normal response? Look at what she says and use examples in your response.
Why do you think Harper let her mom read her letter first?
Do you agree with Aunt Helen?
Do you think Laney should have pressed charges against Ryan, seeing as she was intoxicated/drugged at the time?
Because of Seth, Laney chooses a life of celibacy. How do partners often influence each other to make good or bad decisions?