First published: 8th May 2012
By: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Three days after learning of her brother Finn's death, Honor receives his last letter from Iraq. Devastated, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously sets off to California to fulfill it. At the last minute she's joined by Rusty, Finn's former best friend.
Rusty is the last person Honor wants to be with - he's cocky and obnoxious, just like Honor remembers, and she hasn't forgiven him for turning his back on Finn when Finn enlisted. But their road trip ends up revealing more than the desert landscape. While they cover the dusty miles in Finn's beloved 1967 Chevy Impala, long-held resentments begin to fade, and Honor and Rusty struggle to come to terms with the loss they share.
As the memories of Finn merge to create a new portrait, Honor's eyes are opened to a side of her brother she never knew - a side that shows her the true meaning of love and sacrifice.
Because the premise of In Honor was so similar to Saving June, I initially wanted to read them really far apart so as not to get them confused, but that didn't really work with my reading schedule, so my new idea was to read them close together and compare. Honestly, though, while they are both about a teenage girl taking a roadtrip to do something for her dead sibling, in execution the two books are nothing alike. The emotions in Saving June were real, ugly and raw; in In Honor they are prettied up and Disney-fied and the whole novel is a more saccharine affair.
Honor is 18 and newly graduated from high school. She read as younger than that to me, probably because she's so firmly entrenched in her 'little sister' role: Honor idolises her brother, Finn, in this starry-eyed, childlike way; worshipping him as if he hung the moon. In Honor opens with Finn's funeral and after that, no matter what happens in the story, rarely does a page go by without Honor saying something about how great Finn was, how Finn always knew what to do, everybody liked Finn, Finn was perfect, etcetera. I thought for a bit that some dark secret of Finn's would be revealed to change Honor's idealistic view of him, but In Honor is not really that kind of book. When Finn's secret does come out, it proves that he's even more noble and good than Honor's been saying.
The other person Honor talks about as much as she does Finn, is Kyra Kelley, the Taylor Swift-esque singer whose concert Honor is roadtripping to. Finn bought Honor tickets to Kyra Kelley's last ever show and Honor plans to find a way to meet Kyra Kelley and tell her all about Finn. And by a series of happy coincidences, it all manages to work out. This is the kind of thing I mean when I say In Honor is Disney movie-like; everything is cleaned up and presented as much nicer than it'd be in real life.
Honor is sweet and while I typically prefer my heroines to have more of an edge to them, there's nothing to dislike about her. But I purchased this book for one reason: Tim Riggins. Rusty, Finn's lifelong best friend and Honor's roadtrip partner, is inspired by the Friday Night Lights character and he is the only thing giving In Honor some grit. Rusty's angry at Finn's death and drinks to forget and he actually challenges Honor sometimes and shakes her goody-two-shoes self up a bit. And if you imagine him looking like Tim Riggins while doing it, and speaking in that Tim Riggins drawl, then In Honor becomes exponentially better for it. His burgeoning romance with Honor is the only thing not given the Disney treatment, too - how that develops and turns out is actually pretty realistic.
Something I liked and makes In Honor different from other roadtrip novels I've read, is its focus on natural beauty. The stops that Honor and Rusty make are to see amazing things nature has created: an underground cave, vortexes, a star show. They sound really beautiful and have the effect of making the US South sound really beautiful, too.
In Honor was a bit too pleasant and uncomplicated to really grab me - I need my contemporary novels to be layered and complex to really love them. However, it's an easy read and sometimes there's a place in your life for a sweet, simple tale like this.
Rating: 3 stars