In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster, 240 Pages
Expected US Release Date: May 8, 2012
Challenge: Sophomore Reading Challenge, Contemporary Challenge, Completely Contemporary Challenge
Source: Purchased (LA Times Festival of Books)
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?
He loved you. And that's what you do for people you love. You do what you can to help 'em out, give things up if that's what needs to happen. It's not that complicated.
I thought I'd be ok reading this book, because even though there are parts that related quite closely to my life, it was just far removed enough that I thought it wouldn't be too bad. I've lost someone in the War, but not my brother. I've gone through terrifying moments where I thought I'd lost my brother, but I haven't. There are things I've done to honor people, but never to this extent. So I kept thinking that I was good, that this was just another story.
I cried in the second paragraph. For those who don't have a copy, that's the FIRST DAMN PAGE. When Honor mentioned Taps, I just lost it. I'm sure everyone knows just how beautiful and morphic (my Mac tells me that's not a word but I don't care!) Taps can be...when I hear it, depending on the weather, time of day, and what's going on in my life it can be anything from hopeful to in memory to mournful to just another song. But to a military BRAT like myself, Taps is an entire entity - it encompasses lives and thoughts and stories all in one. And this line is so, so very true: "It occurs to me that I'd never actually heard Taps played in real life." Because generally, you won't ever: it's played over a speaker at a set time on base, or on TV. Or if you do, it's during a large Navy band performance. But when you hear it live in front of you, through one trumpet, for someone...it means something to you. The last time I heard it was at a close friend's dad's funeral, a veteran. I cried then, I cried when I read it now.
Moving along from all the emotions (and there were A LOT)...
It's amazing how powerful it is to enter a novel during a brother's funeral. It's such an immediate connection to the characters, and you feel so much towards them. You feel raw and intimate right along with them, and you'll follow them through anything they go through on the pages. I don't question why Honor immediately decided to take Finn up on his "request" to tell Kyra Kelly about her handsome older brother.
Truthfully, I don't know how to review such a beautiful story. It's such a powerful journey that Honor and Rusty embark on, filled with confusion and hopelessness that slowly grows into meaning and how you can move on without someone. It really does honor her brother, especially as you learn just how selfless and loving he really was. Everything was done really well, with just the right amount of give-and-take between Rusty and Honor, fun and adventurous plot points to balance the serious and introspective ones; and an entire feeling of acceptance.
Each character was crafted perfectly too, especially Honor: her emotions as she moved through her grief were so real it hurt me to read about. The anger and guilt people go through is real, but often left out since it feels shameful, and I'm glad Jessi Kirby not only touched on it, but highlighted them as well. It's an important part of the process, and it's strong to meet them head on.
I loved the brother + sister connection between Honor and Finn, as well as the bond between Honor and Rusty since he was her brother's best friend. I'm a younger sister, and I'm incredibly close with my brother; Honor's actions, thoughts, how she wanted to hang around with them all the time and was hurt when they were finally growing up and not wanting the "kid sister" around...it's so accurate and so true, Jessi Kirby really nailed all the feelings that come with being a younger who feels left out and left behind.
And maybe this will be weird considering what my first few paragraphs in the review were, but I was quite glad this story was more than just Brother Killed in Iraq. While, yes, I think that's important and meaningful on its own, Jessi Kirby elevates the novel to more than just a trip in memoriam, done to honor Finn and his life. It's the story of Honor as she learns to be on her own, really on her own; the story of Rusty and how he can honor his fallen friend; the story of how to grow when circumstance forces you to.
I was pleasantly surprised at how happy I was through the book, too, and that I laughed. I know my review makes it seem like some sobfest, but it's actually not - it's filled with a lot of heart, a lot of good memories and laughter. Rusty is the source of a lot of it, since he's that perfect boy character of disarming and charming all at once - I felt like I could see that smirk on his face. Even though I cried, there were always smiles to pull me through.
And the ending. OH THE ENDING. I obviously won't say anything about it, but it's just so perfect and fitting. Maybe some will say it's "too" perfect, but...it's perfect for this journey. For everything Honor and Rusty go through, for all the fights and tears and memories they have to sift through...I could never want more from it.
Really the only thing I could complain about is that it's only 280 pages. I want more Honor and Rusty!
I beg of you to read this book, because it will open your heart to all the emotions we're so afraid and terrified to have, to all the feelings we would never wish on anyone - and it's a wonderful, beautiful journey.
5 Stars / 5
(more if I could!)