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 genderfluidity 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.
📘 Horror / scary / gory / violence
📙 death and mourning
📗 Genderfluid character
What’s not to love about the Honeys by Ryan La Sala – I certainly can’t think of anything I didn’t like. I’m a horror fan so let me first gush about how great it is to find a Young Adult Horror book that is so creative and well-written. There aren’t enough truly eerie YA books – and this one is going straight onto my recommendation list at the library.
Ryan’s writing is always creative and certainly never boring. The Honeys may have an idyllic setting, but there’s a lot buzzing beneath the surface! (I won’t keep up with the bee jokes… I swear) Mars’ gender fluidity caused them problems the first time they attended Aspen and ended up with them being sent home and refusing to return. But Mars’ sister with whom they have a twin-like bond opts to return to camp and seems to become more and more at home.
Until… a horrifying night that begins with Mars being awoken in the middle of the night by his sister – at least, what resembles his sister – trying to kill him. The stunning pace of the opening scene left me feeling as though I the same roller coaster ride as Mars. Loss, grief and confusion resonate clearly in the first half of the book, and I was hooked from the moment I began reading.
When Mars returns to Aspen in search of … something, anything that may make sense of what happened to Caroline, things become even more eerie. The honeys… the girls at camp who take care of the bees are almost ethereal. They’re clever, mystical and elusive and Mars wants to get to know them in order to better understand Caroline.
The main characters in the book are all young and authentic. That doesn’t surprise me as I have always loved the characters in La Sala’s books. They are vibrant and interesting, flawed and mysterious. There are quite a few players in the book and La Sala does a wonderful job of keeping them all distinct and unique throughout.
This book is disturbing at times, sickly sweet at others, and you won’t believe what happens as the story progresses.
Rich in ambiance, dripping with horror. Just the way I like my YA.
⭐️ Mars: Mars is a wonderful character. Their spirit is captured well throughout the book and I fell in love with them. There’s a lot of growth and it was wonderful to see the way that the love between Mars and their sister never faded away. Having lost a sibling myself I was touched by the extreme grief and all the other emotions that factor into the loss of a family member.
⭐️ The Honeys: Think the Craft girls plus the Heathers… what a combination! I loved the mystery behind the girls in the distant cabin, the way that the lore of Aspen camp was woven into everything and their fierce love for one another.
I love a good horror and I really love a horror that I can’t figure out. I did not see the end of this book coming and that was an absolute joy. There were some suitably gory and nightmare inducing images that I won’t forget any time soon.
Not much to criticize here.
Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) bees, blood, bullying, death, fire, gaslighting, grief, homophobia, kidnapping, murder/attempted murder, sexism, sexual harassment, terminal illness, violence, death of a sibling, corpses
I bought a copy of The Honeys by Ryan La Sala