Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Book Review: Honey - A Novel

It is 1997, and Amber Young has received a life-changing call. It’s a chance thousands of girls would die for: the opportunity to join girl group Cloud9 in Los Angeles and escape her small town. She quickly finds herself in the orbits of fellow rising stars Gwen Morris, a driven singer-dancer, and Wes Kingston, a member of the biggest boy band in the world, ETA.

As Amber embarks on her solo career and her fame intensifies, her rich interior life is frequently reduced. Surrounded by people who claim to love her but only wish to exploit her and driven by a desire for recognition and success, for love and sex, for agency and connection, Amber comes of age at a time when the kaleidoscope of public opinion can distort everything and one mistake can shatter a career.

Honey: A Novel, the debut novel by Isabel Banta, will be published on June 25, 2024. Celadon Books provided an early galley for review.

The cover and the description are what drew me to this coming of age story. I was not sure what to expect, but I was very curious.

Right away, Banta pulled me into this story. Her writing style has a good balance between the everyday and the poetic. She uses the latter in just the right measure, to add spice to the story when it is needed without overpowering things.

The voice of the main character Amber is therefore very clear, very raw and real. I got an instant sense of a young woman who was desperately seeking attention, acknowledgement, just more. On a level, I recognized this youthful yearning and need; it rung true.

While creating her fictional world of pop music for Amber, Cloud9 and ETA to exist, Banta is completely on point with the real world connections. Star Search, MTV's TRL and the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards are all slid into the narrative exactly where they would reside on the real-world timeline. Even the representation of a 2000 online chatroom is done spot-on. I like that kind of attention to detail.

Overall, this novel could appeal to young adult readers or, more likely, their parents who were coming of age in the late 90's and early 2000's where most of the book takes place. It hits a lot of that nostalgia.

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