#IMWAYR: Mad Honey!

Hi everyone! Following up on last week, I've got a review of an adult novel to share with you all, so let's get to it!

Adult Books:

Mad Honey

Written by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan
Adult · 2022

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising their beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined that she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.
Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start. 
And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet she wonders if she can trust him completely. . . .
Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in Ash, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.
Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.

· · · · · ·

I read this for a book club IRL (we had a really excellent discussion!), which is why it's not my usual kidlit graphic novel fair—it's an adult novel, one part realistic fiction, one part mystery. And overall, I really, really liked it.

This book is told in dual POV, giving two amazing human beings, Olivia and Lily, space to tell their own stories to the reader. I appreciate that both of them take time to open up and share what they've been through, and where they're headed—it really feels like they are trusting you, the reader, to understand them. In general, Mad Honey is full of strong, resilient women to look up to—not just Olivia and Lily, but more minor characters like Ava and Elizabeth too.

One of the really difficult questions this book asks is, how far are we willing to go for the people we love? Sometimes we go too far, even when the signs tell us not to give so much. Sometimes we don't go far enough, and we may not even realize it. And sometimes there is no such thing as going "too far," because love is about more than reason. Mad Honey approaches love from multiple angles—romantic, familial—and it has a lot to say.

If you sat me down and forced me to pick a character who this book is about, during the first half, I would have said Asher, Olivia's son and Lily's boyfriend. But after the second half, when the entire book shifts and reveals itself in a big way, I would pick an entirely different character, whose story deserves to be told the way it has been in this novel.

I'll tell you now, this is not a book for the faint of heart. Content warnings include suicide attempts, discrimination, and domestic violence (not to mention the murder trial). I appreciate a lot that Mad Honey isn't trying to sugarcoat the difficult parts of human life—it often looks them straight in the eye in a way few books are willing to. But considering that two weeks ago, I was emotionally fragile and writing up a list of comforting reads...this maybe wasn't the most logical choice to mark my return to reading. If not for the book club, I suspect I would have quit in the middle of the book just because it was too painful at times—but when that big shift occurs in the second half, the book became so emotional I had to keep going, as opposed to so emotional I had to stop.

I do have quibbles with the ending, as is so often the case for books. There's something really painful and, frankly, enraging that occurs, but doesn't really get the space to be examined before the book ends. There's also another plot element that is kind of uplifting and sweet, but also just felt ill-timed considering all the pain the characters had just been through. And I think the story could have dug a little further into those difficult questions I mentioned above, about how far we're willing to go for our loved ones.

That said, though, this book is an amazing feat. To think Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan wanted to tackle so many difficult and meaningful topics—and tackled every single one with grace and thoughtfulness, in a book filled with rich characters and plenty of momentum. This is my first Big Book of the summer, hence me sharing it for Sue Jackson's wonderful challenge—but there's a reason I raced through its 432 pages in just 4 days. (I mean, besides the fact that the book club meeting was coming up fast and I had to.) Mad Honey is a difficult read, but I also know it is going to change so many people's hearts and minds, and open them up to ways of thinking they hadn't encountered before. This book has a spark at its center, and I continue to feel that spark even now, just thinking about how Olivia and Lily fight for the people they care about—and fight for themselves too.

The Kidlit Lovers' Meetup!

If you read kidlit (or even just stop by kidlit blogs like this one) and want to meet other bloggers and readers, don't forget about the second Kidlit Lovers' Meetup I'm hosting, scheduled for Wednesday, July 24, 2024 from 4-5 PM Pacific / 5-6 PM Mountain / 6-7 PM Central / 7-8 PM Eastern! Click here to RSVP for the meetup, or click here to learn more about the meetups in general.

I hope you'll be able to join us!!

Bookish thoughts:

I am going to read a graphic novel this week. And I'm saying it here so that I am accountable to you all, and when I sit down later this week to do other stuff, I'll have that nagging voice in the back of my head saying "You promised you'd read a book," and I can be temporarily annoyed with that voice, but then I'll start the book and it will be awesome and I'll wonder why I hadn't done it sooner. So yeah! That's the plan.

Y'all have a restful, enjoyable week, and see you soon! ✨✨


  1. This sounds like a book I'd really like. My book club might like it too. I just reserved it at the library. Thanks.

  2. The book sounds very serious and you've given a lot to ponder about it already, Max. Jody Picoult books are very popular at the bookstore where I work & it's interesting to see that she has collaborated this time. It sounds good but very serious! Have fun with the graphic novels.

  3. I've heard great things about Mad Honey - I don't read many adult books these days, but this is one I could see myself picking up.

    I'll most likely have to work on the evening of the 24th because I asked for the 25th and 26th off for a kidlit event in my area, but if I happen to get it off, I'll RSVP!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  4. I really enjoyed reading your review of this book. I know it's not one that I will likely ever read (far too riveting and suspenseful for me!), but I am glad to know more about it and might recommend it to a couple of friends who do love books that engage with these kinds of themes. It sounds like a great choice for a book club discussion as well. Your graphic novel reading plan had me cracking up. Now you have to read one!

  5. I thought Mad Honey was a really good novel. As you say, there is so much to it (and those plot reveals!). I also loved the description of how the two authors got together to write the book in the first place. I heard Jennifer Finney Boylan speak at my nieces graduation last year and she was good.

  6. Hi, Max - What a nice surprise! I didn't know you were participating in Big Book Summer this year! You hadn't linked up anything in the Sign-Up list. I REALLY want to read this one because I loved both authors. I don't know if you've read Jodi Picoult before, but she is known for digging deep into difficult topics and for big, unexpected twists in the endings. I've read many of her novels and have mostly loved them. And Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir, She's Not There, about her journey as a trans woman is outstanding.

    Great review! Hope you're enjoying that graphic novel this week!

    2024 Big Book Summer Challenge


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