Title: The Honeys by Ryan La Sala
Published: August 2nd, 2022 by Scholastic Press
Genres: YA, Horror, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 5/5 stars
From Ryan La Sala, the wildly popular author of Reverie, comes a twisted and tantalizing horror novel set amidst the bucolic splendor of a secluded summer retreat.
Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline’s radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who’d grown tragically distant.
Mars’s gender fluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions — and expectations — of his politically connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.
What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying — and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death.
But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can’t find it soon, it will eat him alive.
I loved this book. I went in being super excited and hoping that I would like it, but it completely exceeded my expectations. I have to say, I’m not a huge horror fan and I’m such a scaredy cat. While I did physically gag and stay up late because of this book, it was totally worth it. I loved every second of it, and I’m obsessed with Ryan La Sala’s writing.
Mars ends up losing his sister (not a spoiler, it’s in the synopsis and in the first chapter) and decides to revisit the summer camp they both used to attend as children. Mars had stopped attending after an incident, but he wanted to feel closer to Caroline, who was still fairly popular there and would attend every summer and bunk with the girls in Cabin H, known as The Honeys.
I loved learning more about the camp dynamics. I’m nonbinary as well, and at times it was a little hard to read about Mars’s experience in a negative light, but it did add more depth to the story, as well as contrast between him and Caroline. I felt like everything moved so fast but the pacing was perfect as you continue to get bits and pieces of information and learn everything along with Mars. There was a bit in the middle that dragged just a touch, but I was definitely rewarded with one of the most unique and mind boggling endings I’ve read yet.
Mars was such a refreshing character to read about and I appreciate how the author expressed Mars’s identity in both subtle and explicit ways. I haven’t read a ton of books with nonbinary characters so to be in Mars head and be able to finally relate to someone about gender, identity, and gender expression was such a relief. It’s been months since I’ve finished the book but he remains a comfort character for me. There were a few moments where I felt like there were inconsistencies in Mars’s character, but that became less of a problem towards the middle of the book.
Mars acted as almost a foil for Caroline, someone we see very sparingly and mostly through memories throughout the novel. I also have a sister but I have a strong bond with mine, and it was interesting to see their relationship played out in the past and present, and seeing how that relationship shaped Mars.
The Honeys were a bit interchangeable, just like the cabin boys. That wasn’t a problem for me because of how strong the lead characters were and how the supporting characters were able to fill space so adequately.
This book has some of the most unique writing I have ever read and I mean this in the best way possible. Ryan La Sala has these beautiful one-liners spread throughout the book, but the overall flow is so smooth. Add the magical descriptions and I was lost in La Sala’s world and everything they could possibly create. It was hard to pull myself out of the book whenever I decided to open it.
Some troupes used weren’t my favorite, but that wasn’t even to significantly detract from my liking of the novel. I was left on the edge of my seat from page one. There was this mystery that Mars was trying to solve and I was right there with him, totally confused and clueless as to what could possibly happen next. I was a bit disconnected at first from the characters but the book started in the middle of the action and it took a few chapters for the story of Mars and Caroline’s lives to start to play out.
There had been a few things here and there at the beginning that I was a bit iffy on but by the middle of the book I was completely swept away. The writing was so beautiful and captivating, and the plot was too unique for me to have any idea how it would end. I binged the last hundred or so pages instead of going to sleep one night because I couldn’t put the book down (and after what I had just read, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep tbh). The nonbinary rep was amazing and wonderful to relate to.
If horror is your genre, or your interested in the synopsis, I highly recommend this.
I also posted my thoughts for The Honeys on Instagram! Click on the photo to be directed there.
Ryan La Sala writes about surreal things happening to queer people.
Ryan resides in New York City, but only physically. Escapist to the core, he spends most of his time in the astral planes and only takes up corporeal form for special occasions, like brunch and to watch anime (which is banned on the astral planes).
Ryan is the author behind the riotously imaginative Reverie, and the brilliantly constructed Be Dazzled. He has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Tor.com, and one time Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race called him cute. Right in the middle of the road downtown! So. Pretty big deal all around, yes?