“Death isn’t the end of a life, but the division of it. When someone dies, their soul scatters into all the things they’ve ever given away.”
Holy honey bees this book was FANTASTIC! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve been on here, and it isn’t for lack of books. But that’s a post for a different day. I am here today to GUSH BUCKETS OF HONEY about this stunning book.
I’m ashamed to say that this is the first book of La Sala’s I’ve read. And believe me, that changes after today. The Honeys had everything I love in a horror book. Sharp writing, visceral descriptions, and a haunting but terrifying dream-like atmosphere that makes it impossible to not get lured in.
“I leave the lip gloss on. Bright things in nature are often poisonous. Let that be my defense, then. Let Aspen watch, and predators prowl, and all the waiting jaws yawn wider. I will be a ruin to consume.”
I mean, THAT PROSE!!! God. Every sentence was a delight to read. La Sala writes word with teeth. Sometimes they skim your skin and other times they pierce right through. But through that writing, he creates a visceral world with realistic characters. I didn’t just imagine what was happening, I was there with Mars for every moment.
One of my favorite things is when an author takes a theme and weaves it into every facet of the story. Here, the primary focus is on The Honeys, the group of girls who take care of the bees at the exclusive summer camp Mars goes to trying to find the truth of what happened to his sister, Caroline. But we also experience the strange summer of adolescence. How the long, hot days stretch and warp reality, creating memories and experiences that shape us. The sticky sweetness of sweat on our skin and fresh honey drizzling on our tongues.
It’s this languid atmosphere that sucks us into the nightmare Mars lives through. Because he’s also lulled by the seductive sweetness and tricked by the sweltering beauty. He’s unable to resist, and therefore, so are we, even though we both know that things are not what they seem and an unseen danger lingers in every innocent pastime.
“A person is never really gone. They’ve just changed forms. The energy and particles that make them up have disorganized, merged back with the world, united with nature in cycles that are eternal. It’s easy to believe that out here—in woods that feel heavy with eternity.”
Paranormal elements aside, the very real horror of grief is always present with Mars. He struggles with the loss of his sister and wants to understand what he missed while she was still alive. This part of the story is so well done. You can feel Mars as cycles through grief in myriad ways, and the undertone of how the death of his sister impacts him is always present.
This isn’t a sad story, or not entirely sad anyway. It’s melancholy. The kind of sadness you learn to live with when someone close to you dies. It’s about learning to live with a piece of yourself missing. I thought this aspect was so beautiful because as anyone who has ever lost someone, it’s an ache that you learn to live with. This experience was seamlessly linked to the rest of Mars’ journey that it made the entire story believable in a way that is difficult to sometimes do in supernatural horror.
It may seem like this story is heavier than it really is. Yes, it has some unbelievably profound depth, but it is also full of sass and flare and vivaciousness.
“I know that people think being queer is, like, very fabulous and full of witty repartee and all that, but sometimes it’s also crying in the bathroom of an Applebee’s somewhere near Margaritaville, New York, which Rihanna’s “S&M” plays on the speakers for the early-bird crowd.”
Everyone, meet Mars. I want Mars to be real. I want to be his friend and paint his nails and gossip and laugh and cry with him in the corner of parties that suck. He’s the best friend I never knew I needed.
Like everything in this book, nothing is done as an aside or an accident. Mars is gender fluid, but the way this aspect battles against the binary sexual restraints imprinted within every aspect of the camp is such an important conversation to have about sexism in the larger world. And how it plays into the ending is brilliant. I am forever a Mars fan and hope we get more because his story has so much more to it!
So, come for the fabulousness, stay for the terrors. If you love a slow burn horror novel that wraps you in sharp prose and sinks its teeth in you one page at a time, get this book.
Five Honey Bees 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝
From Ryan La Sala, the wildly popular author of Reverie, comes a twisted and tantalizing horror novel set amidst the bucolic splendor of a secluded summer retreat.
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 gender fluidity 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.
Ryan La Sala writes about surreal things happening to queer people.
Ryan resides in New York City, but only physically. Escapist to the core, he spends most of his time in the astral planes and only takes up corporeal form for special occasions, like brunch and to watch anime (which is banned on the astral planes).
Ryan is the author behind the riotously imaginative Reverie, and the brilliantly constructed Be Dazzled. He has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Tor.com, and one time Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race called him cute. Right in the middle of the road downtown! So. Pretty big deal all around, yes?