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A bookclique pick from Megan Fink Brevard

Poignant and suspenseful, Mad Honey*, by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boyle asks readers to imagine their prejudices if they discovered family secrets. In this novel, the co-authors craft a narrative with two powerful character voices. The first is Olivia’s, an apiarist, who escapes an abusive marriage by moving to a small town to keep her son, Asher, safe. Years later, Asher is accused of his girlfriend’s murder, and Olivia must uncover secrets in her community to defend her son. The second point of view is Lily’s, the murdered girlfriend. 

I loved the multiple voices and how the authors worked together to give perspectives of Olivia’s life and then Lily’s experiences. To avoid spoilers, I will only state that Lily’s story explores the reasons she and Asher had issues, though I won’t reveal the plot twist. Picoult and Boyle are both excellent storytellers, and I stayed up late reading this book. Mad Honey delves into what makes a relationship loving and what can make it abusive. Olivia describes her journey of surviving her marriage: “On the day I married Braden, if someone had told me that my prince would become a monster, I never would have believed it. I would have said no, that is not the direction in which the fairy tale goes. But there is a vast canyon between who we want people to be, and who they truly are.” The gap between who people want us to be and who we truly are plays an important part in our understanding of Lily as well.

I also loved the details about beekeeping and the inclusion of honey recipes at the end. The title Mad Honey refers to the practice of eating honey from a certain type of rhododendron that can cause hallucinations and even death. I think the title also describes the madness of love and how overwhelming emotions can possess your soul. 

In the afterword, Picoult and Boyle describe how they worked together, writing the narrative voices in tandem and switching back and forth so that their styles would meld together. Two perspectives of the murder trial help readers develop empathy for Lily. Mad Honey is truly one of the most beautiful, captivating, and empathetic novels about families and relationships I’ve ever read.

*Mad Honey will be published in October 2022

Megan Fink Brevard

Megan Fink Brevard, a school librarian, began her career in children’s book publishing. She is an active member of YALSA and has served on national award committees such as the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature 2018 and the YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 2012. She has also served on the Teen Read Week and the Best Books for Young Adults committees.