Published by Scholastic Press (8.16.2022)
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook, 344 pages
Length: 10 hours, 38 minutes
Narrator: Pete Cross
Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline's radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who'd grown tragically distant.
Mars's genderfluidity means he's often excluded from the traditions -- and expectations -- of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.
What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister's old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying -- and Mars is certain they're connected to Caroline's death.
But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can't find it soon, it will eat him alive.
Wow, what a wild ride!!
I honestly didn’t know much about this book going in. Ryan La Sala has been at YALLfest a couple of times and will be back again this year, and I’ve had at least one of his books on my TBR for a while. I don’t even remember how this one popped up on my radar, but whatever drew my attention was enough to make me go request it from Libby immediately.
I actually loved going into this book blind, because I had NO idea what I was in for. I didn’t even know what genre it was, if there were supernatural elements or it was based in reality, anything. I ended up being pleasantly surprised!
I had no clue what the hell was happening in the first half. You get little snippets of things, and like I said, I had no idea if it was supernatural enough and I was wholly intrigued! The book gives you just enough to keep you wanting more. The mystery aspect was definitely a driving point for me.
I also enjoyed reading a book with a gender fluid MC – plenty of the books I read have LGBT MCs but I don’t think I’ve ever read one with gender fluidity. I really liked Mars as a protagonist! He didn’t like being defined as strictly masculine or feminine, and I thought his breaking of gender roles was fantastic. It also shines a light on the whole “boys will be boys” saying…why does that excuse so much toxic behavior?? But when girls do things deemed unacceptable they’re slutty or bitchy?
The camp that Mars attends is very polarized as far as traditional gender roles go, so he was bullied. Even though I’m not gender fluid, I found it very easy to relate to him. The feeling of not fitting in is one I know well, and I really felt for the way he was treated. But he still stood proud of who he was, and I love that he fully embraced it and intentionally make judgy homophobic/transphobic people uncomfortable.
However, as much as I loved Mars, I felt like he was the only character with any real depth. All of the surrounding characters were pretty interchangeable and I found myself getting them mixed up sometimes. I didn’t particularly care about any of them, to be honest. I was intrigued by the Honeys, though – their allure resonated strongly in the storytelling and it made me feel drawn to them, too.
In the first half, I was enjoying it (the audio is AMAZING! It has sound effects and background noise!) but I didn’t love it, and probably could have walked away. However, in the last half shit gets CRAZY and at that point on I was hooked! It got extremely freaky and a tad disturbing (the scene were the dude was turning into honey O__O) and I was here for it! I loved how things got super whack because I had no idea what was going to happen next. The whole hive and lace thing was weird AF but it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before! (The lace reminded me of the Dreamer trilogy, but everything else was so different that I didn’t feel like it was a rip off.) Every time I thought I had things figured out it would take a hard left and totally surprise me. View Spoiler »I GASPED when Mars’ parents turned on him!!! And Wyatt?!?! « Hide Spoiler
I just need to emphasize again how epic the audiobook was. Not only did I enjoy the narrator, but there were sound effects and background noise like birds chirping and bees buzzing! It was amazing!
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5