Honor’s brother is barely in the ground after his military funeral before she opens the last letter Finn ever sent her. In it, he seems to have a request of her, and Honor decides to fulfill it. This means driving cr0ss-country to California. When Rusty, Finn’s best friend, shows up as she’s about to leave and invites himself along, she’s irritated. But the two embark on the road trip together and share in the adventure that comes along with a largely-unplanned road trip. As they both navigate their grief, they also come to terms with what they believed–and what was the actual truth about Finn’s life.
Certainly not the only YA book to be published this year which deals (indirectly or not) with the Iraq War, Kirby’s ode to the healing power of road trips is certainly one of the stronger offerings. Full of strong character development, quirky side characters and ruminations on love, loss, and spirituality, this is a smart contemporary read. It’ll find an audience in those who are looking for humor and quirk along with their sentimentality.
Kirby excels at allowing her characters to ruminate about life and love without ever allowing the story to feel didactic or preachy. Honor’s voice is well developed and consistent throughout the narrative, and Rusty provides a nice foil to her innocence. The two have a nice, natural chemistry, and their banter will keep readers satisfied and turning the pages until the end. The growth that Honor undergoes over the course of the novel feels authentic, and while Rusty isn’t quite as developed, he’s certainly got enough personality to make him a stand-out.
There are some pacing issues. The beginning and middle portions of their journey tend to drag on too long. There’s a switch about two-thirds of the way through the novel where things begin to happen too quickly. Whereas it seemed to take forever for things to occur at the start, events start racing by once the duo reaches California. This pacing felt off and was jarring, but not all readers will notice this.
Despite being a road trip novel, this one is largely character-driven. Honor takes a while to warm up to readers, but she gets there eventually. Readers won’t ever doubt her love for her brother (nor his love for her), and getting to be there as Honor comes to terms with the sacrifices he made for her is fairly satisfying. Recommended.
In Honor by Jessi Kirby. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: 2012. Library copy.