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The General Consensus

The Student News Site of Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School

The General Consensus

The Student News Site of Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School

The General Consensus

“Mad Honey” Book Review


Jodi Picoult– the New York Times bestselling author of Wish You Were Here– and Jennifer Finley Borland– the bestselling author of She’s Not There– came together to write the captivating novel, Mad Honey, which engrosses the reader as each character explores the complexities of relationships, trauma, and the consequences of their actions. The story follows 18-year-old Asher Fields in a case where he is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Lily Campanello. The story is able to capture the reader’s attention by switching between the narrators in each chapter. It flips between the voice of Lily Campanello, the young woman who has been killed and Asher Fields’ mother, Olivia McAfee. The story is able to take a powerful look at abuse with these two narrators because both of them have fought their own battles with abuse and trauma throughout their lives. Through the case, Olivia McAfee is reminded of her abusive ex-husband. Lily Campanello also struggled with an abusive father, and many secrets are revealed about her childhood that keeps the reader eager to hear more and learn about her childhood. 

Not only are there many parallels in the abuse that takes place throughout Mad Honey, but there’s also parallels between what the characters are experiencing and what the bees in Olivia‘s hives are experiencing. Asher Fields’ mother, Olivia, is a beekeeper, and as a narrator of the novel she is able to use figurative language relating to the bees to help keep the story going in her own way. As Olivia deals with the overwhelming sensations of her son being put on trial, she has to be able to cope, and her way of doing that is through the bees. When she is not able to take care of her son because he is on trial or in jail, she makes it a priority to make sure her hives are thriving.

The authors are also easily able to switch back-and-forth between flashbacks in moments of violence that the characters experienced in the past and then now in the present tense. The way that the authors write the story helps to paint a better picture of the characters’ lives while at the same time moving the story forward and keeping the readers engaged.

This novel also focuses on struggles in relationships and how that can impact people over time. Not only abuse, but also lies are highlighted as one learns more and more about the characters. Each one of the characters has their own secrets that they are trying to keep to themselves. Lies are highlighted through the metaphor of the actual honey known as mad honey. Mad honey is described as a kind of honey that can cause hallucinations, vomiting, loss of consciousness, seizures, and death. The reason why mad honey is so important in this novel is because it represents their toxic relationships and the trauma that is being highlighted for each one of the characters. Olivia explains, “The secret weapon of mad honey, of course, is that you expect it to be sweet, not deadly. You’re deliberately attracted to it. By the time it messes with your head, with your heart, it’s too late” (343). The honey represents the relationships that the characters are sucked into with its sweetness on the outside, until it’s too late and the damage that it does to you is already done.

Mad Honey is a powerful novel that I highly recommend; it highlights a lot of important themes; however, before one reads this book they should take into account the difficult topics that it addresses including: graphic domestic violence, LGBTQIA+ violence, bullying, attempted suicide, and child abuse. I believe that there are not many weaknesses in this novel; however, something to take into account is that this book does not have a typical happy ending and may leave the reader feeling frustrated with some of the characters. If one goes into the novel wanting justice for Lily, one may not feel satisfied at the end. I believed that the way that the authors chose to end this novel was a perfect way to wrap up the story and show how in life and difficult situations there will not always be a perfect ending.

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About the Contributor
Norah Keys
Norah Keys, Staff Writer
Norah Keys is a senior at HWRHS and a student journalist for the General Consensus. At school, Norah is the yearbook editor and a leader of the Outing Club and Environmental Club. She's also a captain for Generals Varsity Gymnastics Team. She has always had a love for writing and is excited to write for the school newspaper.

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    BobbieFeb 7, 2024 at 8:00 am

    Personally (i admit to being a book snob)
    I call this book A MASTERPIECE. Be open minded & accepting & you may be surprised to learn a lot about yourself & human acceptance. Love & kindness goes a long long way. Good job jodi & jennifer. A home run. Jodi you never disappoint