Book Title/Author: In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster May 2012
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
Other Books From Author: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
Amazon| Goodreads | Author website
I received this book for review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
After Honor’s older brother is killed in Iraq, Honor discovers, on the night after the funeral, an unopened letter from her brother sent before he passed away. Honor reads the final words of Finn and decides to embark on a journey to California that she believes Finn is sending her on. Standing in her way is Finn’s former best friend, Rusty, who shows up at the house drunk after years of the two not seeing each other after Finn & Rusty’s falling out. Rusty, who has the tendency to act like an ass & downright piss her off, convinces Honor to let him join her on this journey. Along the way, the two reconnect and help each other cope with this monumental loss and learn things about each other and about Finn — things that help them relive memories & dull the pain, some that help understand past actions & things that downright catch them off guard and make them realize that perhaps everything wasn’t always as it seemed.
Road trip? A quest that a deceased family member sends the character on? A hint of a possible romance with two unlikely and unsuspecting characters? Coupled with the fact that I had previously read and loved Kirby’s debut novel Moonglass? This had all the makings to make me do a ridiculous happy dance when it arrived on my doorstep. And that I did.
In Honor by Jessi Kirby was a quick read for me as I immediately found Honor’s devastation thrust upon me and then, once the road trip started, I got to feeling like I had hopped in the car with Honor & Rusty and settled in for the ride with my hair blowing in the wind & singing along to the classic rock. The road trip has it’s fun moments for sure but this journey you quickly discover is more focused on the emotional one Honor needs to endure full of hard lessons, facetime with her grief, revelations she doesn’t want to here & opportunities to step outside herself and live.
At times my heart just pained for her, and for Rusty, who shares in her grief. Sometimes it felt like little was happening in this book as a lot of it DOES take place in the car and at stops along the way but then sometimes you felt like when it rained, it poured and I questioned how much more could Honor endure (the storm, the whole police incident & then the big reveal). It was a pretty emotional read though sometimes the beauty in Jessi Kirby’s books are that they aren’t TOO “heavy” to handle. There is still a lighter feel to them despite the grief and the tragedy surrounding the story. I didn’t get this all consuming feeling where I felt I was being suffocated by the grief just as the character was like in (one of my favorite books) The Sky Is Everywhere. Whereas The Sky Is Everywhere felt like my heart got run over 50 times over by a cement truck, In Honor pierced and at times stabbed my heart. Still heartwrenching but not to the degree that some teen books about grieving are. Rusty sometimes creates quite some comedic relief and some of the more swoony moments certainly help to distract.
Speaking of Rusty, knowing that Jessi Kirby is a HUGE Friday Night Lights fan (Texas Forever!!) and many people saying Rusty was based on Tim Riggins (ow ow! Man of my dreams) from FNL, I could NOT read this book without picturing Tim Riggins — which I certainly didn’t mind — but I wonder how I met have felt towards Rusty if I didn’t associate him with Tim– knowing the heart behind the tougher exterior. I mean, seriously Rusty can be a straight up douche sometimes that you wonder why Honor doesn’t kick him to the curb but eventually, like with Tim Riggins, you start to see the mess that lies underneath Rusty and realize his hurt and how mangled that is.
As far as the romance goes, I’m not sure whether I think there is a true connection there or if I think the romantical aspect was an attraction to someone who understands your grief and it makes you feel better. I couldn’t tell. Maybe that’s why I did find the ending so fitting. Maybe that was the point of it. To not really know in the wake of all these crazy emotions and feelings. But I can’t say I was head over heels for the romance element to this book — I appreciated it wasn’t this instanta-love from the moment they got on the road — it was a slow unraveling of affection that hinted at something more. But I also wasn’t sure I saw what suddenly made her go from bff’s little sister to something more. Was it just that she “grew up” and got boobs? I couldn’t get a sense if there had been something always underlying in their relationship.
My big complaint? While I really felt for Honor, she never really jumped off the page for me. I couldn’t figure her out. Which also made me feel weird towards the way she responded to a certain revelation. She seemed to bounce right back from something that would have had me huddled in a ball for days feeling guilt upon guilt and what-ifs. And from what I thought I knew of her, I just expected a different reaction. The ending really was when I started to kinda feel like I understood where her head was and the fact she had no clue who she was after a HUGE piece of her was ripped away. But even then, unfortunately I don’t think she’ll stick with me the way other characters do when I experience their grief alongside them. I liked her just fine but she just wasn’t fully realized for me.
My Final Thought: Between Moonglass & In Honor, Jessi Kirby has definitely grabbed my attention has an author whose works I’ll keep buying. In Honor has realistic characters that are complicated & have authentic voices, really smooth & accessible writing, romance that doesn’t overshadow other really great parts of the story & a journey that had me grabbing for the tissues but also chuckling and just feeling some sort of togetherness with mankind and the resilience of the human spirit. And I have to say, as much as the ending might make some feel unsatisfied, I rather liked it! This is one to pack in the beach bag this summer, friends!
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