Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
A devastating loss leads to an unexpected road trip in this novel from the author of Moonglass, whose voice Sarah Dessen says “is fresh and wise, all at once.”
Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it.
Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory—but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?
In Honor by Jessi Kirby is a bittersweet look at family, loss and growing up. From the first page, Kirby powerfully evokes Honor's complete devastation in the wake of her brother's death. Without Finn, Honor is lost at sea, not knowing which way to turn. Even before readers really get to know the heroine, their hearts will break at the hopelessness of her situation -- as orphans, Finn was not only Honor's brother, but also her father figure and friend. Without him, she feels utterly alone. In a desperate attempt to find meaning in a senseless tragedy, Honor sets off on a cross-country road trip to fulfill Finn's final wishes. Unfortunately, Finn's estranged best friend Rusty is along for the ride -- drunken stupor and all.
It's hard to know what to do with Rusty. He's drunken and abrasive, crass and a bit of a jerk, intruding his own issues on Honor's grief. At times, readers will wish that Honor would call Rusty out on his attitude, but as Kirby gradually reveals their long and complicated history, they will begin to see that his brashness comes from a dark and painful place. It takes a while, but ultimately Rusty becomes a sympathetic and even charming character. Honor's voice is clear and strong, though readers may occasionally grow frustrated with her naiveté. Both Honor and Rusty have something to learn from each other, and their sparring keeps the tension high and takes In Honor beyond the traditional story of youthful grief. Honor has a lot of growing up to do, and she learns that lesson the hard way with the help of constant misadventures and Rusty's brutal honesty.
The slight romance in the novel effectively represents the need to continue living even though a loved one is gone. However, I wish Honor didn't need two men to take care of her and set her on the path to maturity. While it makes sense in the context of her relationship with her brother, the gender dynamic of her relationship with Rusty is slightly uncomfortable. Ultimately, though, her trip across the country gives Honor new wisdom and leaves the reader hopeful that she will take control of her own life in the future.
By their very nature, road trip novels are episodic, but Kirby skillfully turns this series of events into a touching journey of discovery and growth. There are crushing lows and transcendent highs as Honor grapples with her grief and the realization that her brother had secrets of his own. The final twist of the tale will warm readers' hearts and make them question the nature of fate, casting the rest of the story in a poignant new light and giving Honor's journey profound meaning. True to form, Kirby takes overwhelming sadness and spins it into a strand of hope.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.
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