Mad Honey

Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Finney Boylan
Contemporary Thriller

A soul-stirring novel about what we choose to keep from our past, and what we choose to leave behind.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined 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 at times, she wonders if she can she 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 him, 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.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

“All of us have something in our hearts like a flower that cannot bloom because it is held in secret.”

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) Olivia moves back to her hometown with her son Asher to avoid a bad relationship. Lily also moves to this town to start over in high school. She meets Asher and they begin dating. Then Olivia gets a tragic phone call where Asher may be implied in a murder.

This one I had to sit on for awhile before I could review it. When it states in the synopsis that it is “soul-stirring” I could not have said it better. It is beautifully written and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It’s a doozey though, it’ll get your heart beating in fear, anger and love.

The story is made up of multiple POV. Olivia (Asher’s mom), Asher and Lily, his girlfriend. Olivia is a beekeeper and wow, who would’ve thought bees were so fascinating? We get bits of information and caring for them and facts about them which became so interesting to me. I don’t want to downplay the bees but the rest of the book is truly what stole my heart.

As a mom, I connected with Olivia. Oh so much. She is strong and passionate. Nothing can beat the relationship she has with Asher. That was admirable. Asher is a typical teenager but with more maturity than most. I’d say this about Lily also. They made the perfect pair.

A tragedy strikes and oh it broke my heart. So many emotions were felt as Olivia watched Asher go through the worst experience of his life. My mom heart had constant pain just imagining the scenario. But the real winner of this book was the transgender experience.

“Being gay or straight,” says Elizabeth, “is about who you want to go to bed with. Being trans—or cis—is about who you want to go to bed as.”

It’s definitely something you need to experience for yourself but I have never felt so adequately informed. It was educational, heartbreaking, heart warming and honest. There are characters trying to understand the trans experience and the questions that are asked are real. The answers that are given are honest. It is so well done. I couldn’t understand how Picoult had described it so well, but lo and behold, her co-author is transgender. This is gold! Being able to get answers to questions that are hard to ask, to be able to “see” things from a transgender perspective. Once again, my heart broke. I tell you, my heart was broken and put back together multiple times!

Being a strong LGBTQ+ ally, I want everyone to read this story. Without getting too much on my soap box; why do we need to know someone’s sexuality or gender?? Why does it matter? Aren’t we all just people? People who need and want the same things- to be accepted and loved. I once had someone tell me, “Nobody should be talking about my sexuality.” I completely agree. This book has the most real discussion about LGBTQ+ issues that I’ve seen. Transphobia and homophobia are real and they are dangerous. And while I knew this, I didn’t realize the full aspect of it until this book. No one should have to live like that.

AUDIO REVIEW: Stunning. I swear my mom heart was right there with these narrators. I don’t know which of the four narrators was each character but when 2/4 of the narrators are the authors, you know it’ll be good. I once again absolutely adore when authors read their own books. It adds so much more of everything to the audio. I can talk about voice cadence and more but what the author wants you to feel, you do because how they project their voice. The other narrators stood out just as much. I believe this is partly why I was so moved by this one.

Here are just a few of the many beautiful quotes in this book;

“I don’t think it’s an invisible chromosome, or the inability to get pregnant, or anything else, that makes people so cruel to transgender folks. I think what they hate is difference. What they hate is that the world is complicated in ways they can’t understand. People want the world to be simple.”

“If you want to understand something, you first need to accept the fact of your own ignorance. And then, you need to talk to people who know more than you do, people who have not just thought about the facts, but lived them.”

“I know better than most people what it means to make a colossal mistake, how you carry it with you, how it alters you on a cellular level. How, if you cannot forgive yourself for your transgression you snap under the weight of your own flaws.”

“Sometimes, making the world a better place just involves creating space for the people who are already in it.”

General content summary: F words= 20+, death from heart attack, parental deaths, spousal physical abuse (multiple, details), wrist scars (previous suicide attempt, referenced many times), previous alcoholic, previous divorces, teen death (blood), grief, f/f marriage, teen intimacy (multiple, details), teen drinking, menstruation references, vandalism, previous abortion (details), suicide attempt (blood), transgender, hate bullying (multiple), details about gender affirming surgery (many details, multiple times), child physical abuse (few),  m/f passionate kissing. 

Thank you to Penguin Random House Audio for the gifted copy!

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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