If this novel were a video game, it would be rated “M” for mature audiences only. It contains serious, graphic and potentially triggering themes on topics such as rape, suicide, teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, depression and more. All that said, the characters are intricately developed, the plot is inventive and the language exquisite.
When 16-year-old Harper Scott finds her perfect older sister June dead from suicide, it rocks her world. June gave no warning signs, and with no explanation Harper struggles to cope with her messed-up family and her role as a disappointment in comparison to her “perfect” sister. Searching for answers to the pain she can’t seem to feel through her numbness, Harper finds a postcard in June’s room, inscribed with a desperate plea to escape. So Harper, her best friend Laney and the mysteriously but completely involved Jake Tolan band together to get June to California. A cross-country road trip ensues and the three teens hope that in laying June’s ashes to rest at the place where she most wanted to be will help them make sense of her death. (HARLEQUIN TEEN, Dec., 336 pp., $9.99, ISBN: 9780373210244, PB, 16 & Up)