'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 18 October 2020

Review: Honeybee

The long awaited follow-up to Silvey’s international best selling Jasper Jones is here. At times confronting, at others, beautifully joyful, Silvey is always in control of the narrative, taking the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions.

The hero is Sam, a fourteen year old who is about to end his life. He meets an elderly man, Vic, who is also about to jump off a bridge. Their meeting results in both saving the other’s lives. Vic takes Sam into his house and they both begin a healing journey.

The friendship is mutually nurturing. Vic provides Sam with a safe place to live and gives him the space to explore himself and to finally accept his true identity.

In turn, Sam is a talented cook and prepares Victor sumptuous meals. This is the start of a nurturing, nourishing relationship.

But there is a limit to how much they can help one another. Vic is clearly ill and unable to fully appreciate Sam’s beautiful meals, and (although supportive) he is out of his depth with the world Sam is trying to navigate.

Although the relationship between pair is platonic, this living arrangement inevitably attracts suspicion and attention, the sadly the two must part company.

Silvey contrasts this free existence to the straightjacket of the toxic masculinity which pervades Sam’s family home. His mother is terrorised by his abusive step father, who lives in a world of entitlement and blame. This leaves no space for Sam’s growing identity, and it soon becomes clear to the reader why Sam's world had been intolerable.

This section is ugly and hard to read. And Sam makes some dubious decisions. But his experience with Victor has strengthened him, and – without spoilers – Sam is able to transform and blossom.

This is a coming of age novel that has touches on many aspects of the pressures that face children today. Although marketed as General Fiction, rather than Young Adult, this book is nevertheless important for teen readers and I believe that younger people will enjoy and learn from this book. Some adult guidance is suggested, and probably best for older teens, as this contains themes of violence, suicide, substance use and crime.

Title:  Honeybee
Author: Craig Silvey
Publisher: Allan and Unwin, $ 32.99
Publication Date:  30 September 2020
Format:  Paperback
ISBN: 978170677224
For ages: 15+
Type:  Yong Adult Fiction