Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Title: In Honor

Author: Jessi Kirby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 8th, 2012

Interest: Author / Sophomore Reading Challenge

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): A devastating loss leads to an unexpected road trip in this novel from the author of Moonglass, whose voice Sarah Dessen says “is fresh and wise, all at once.”

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?

Have you ever started reading a book and knew right away that you were going to love every single page?  That’s how I felt when I started reading In Honor by Jessi Kirby.  I can’t explain what about a book wins me over when I have this experience, but I’m happy about it nonetheless.  I felt similarly when I read Jessi Kirby’s debut Moonglass as well.  Her writing draws me in and doesn’t let go until I’ve finished her book.

I love that In Honor starts with Honor describing taps being played and the 21-gun salute.  If you’ve been to a funeral when taps has been played and the salute is given, then it’s easy to relive it while reading someone’s experience.  It’s an emotional experience which becomes an emotional reading experience.  I don’t have an immediate family member serving, but I have former students serving, I have cousins serving, I’ve had friends serving.  I may not know what it feels like to lose a brother in the war, but I can certainly empathize with Honor and Rusty as they navigate through their grief.  In Honor is an emotional read, but it’s balanced with love, hope, and humor that many readers will appreciate.

The road trip setting gives In Honor a lighter mood despite the circumstances which I really appreciated because it made the emotional scenes even more powerful.  Road trip books are entertaining because characters are forced to interact with one another, given the close quarters, which provides more character development and insight.  Honor pretty much wears her heart on her sleeve, but Rusty is harder to read.  Honor and Rusty don’t get along very well and the tension is palpable, but there’s something just beneath the surface that lets the reader know that there’s more to Rusty than meets the eye.  Besides the fact that I had a character crush on him, I really enjoyed watching his character grow and discovering his secrets as their journey to California progressed.  He and Honor are learning more about each other, but they’re also learning about themselves through this entire ordeal.

I don’t know if this makes sense, but reading In Honor made me wish I could either live in Texas or at least visit Texas.  I love living in Michigan, so maybe I just wish I could have gone to Texas years ago and met a cute guy like Rusty?  I don’t know, but the whole southern atmosphere described was alluring.  I have been to Sedona (a pit stop Honor and Rusty have to make), so I know how beautiful it is and really want to make a return visit.  More than anything, I think this awkward paragraph just goes to show how well Jessi Kirby created the atmosphere and setting of In Honor.  So many elements of this book won me over and made me feel like I was there with Honor and Rusty.

If you take anything from this review, know this: In Honor is a book that will resonate with readers.  The characters are dynamic and true and ones you’ll wish you could meet in real life.  Jessi Kirby wrote a wonderful debut, but her sophomore novel, In Honor, is even better.  Without a doubt, In Honor will be extremely popular in my classroom and I really hope you read it.

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