Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it.
Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory—but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?
A road trip book that also tackles the subject of a deceased soldier? When I first heard about In Honor by Jessi Kirby, I was intrigued by the fact that it married a trope that I often think of as light-hearted with a gut-wrenching story. In Honor had both of these elements, and while I enjoyed the few hours I spent reading it, this book left no real impact on me.
Last semester my Resources for YA class had me reading two to four young adult novels a week. As I read more and more books at an increasing pace, I’m starting to get pickier and develop some pet peeves. One of my latest? Characters who are cardboard stereotypes. I’m not going to lie, at times I found Rusty mildly attractive. However, he also fit a stereotype that constantly pops up in books, movies, and television geared at teens: the hot friend of the older brother who’s a bad boy. There are times when this type of character can work, but you have to give them a little something extra so that they stand out from similar characters.
I also had serious problems with the ending of this book. After the big revelation, things ended pretty abruptly. I wish I could have seen more of what Honor was thinking after everything that happened. Instead, it felt as though Kirby was trying to placate by giving me the thoughts off the very top of Honor’s head. While I’m talking about the ending, can I discuss how ridiculously similar this book is to Saving June by Hannah Harrington (another one that I didn’t really care for)? Think about it: deceased sibling, road trip with strange but attractive boy, big revelation, abrupt ending. That was a serious turn-off for me. While I merely have a manuscript that I peck at now and then, I believe that in order to successfully write in any genre, you need to read a lot of it. Perhaps Kirby knew about Harrington’s novel, but I’m surprised that both of these novels were published so close together and that everyone seems to be eating them up with little mention of their similarities.
For all its faults, In Honor did have some fun moments. Rusty and Honor act ridiculous and get themselves into a certain amount of trouble. I chuckled and even smiled at some of their antics, but even the romance had some moments that felt unoriginal. It didn’t help that while I had nothing against Honor, her character lacked the inexplicable spark that made me care deeply about her.
In Honor is not abysmal, nor is it mindblowing. It simply falls into the unfortunate middle ground of being a quick, compelling read, but nothing especially memorable. Kirby’s debut Moonglass is sitting on my shelves and while I may still give it a shot, I’m feeling a bit wary after my first experience with Kirby’s work.