I received a copy of American Honey by Nancy Scrofano in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.
I prefer to jump into books without much idea of what to expect, so that (hopefully) I can be pleasantly surprised! This book was definitely unexpected.
The main character, eighteen year old Ollie, has big dreams of becoming a music star. The book follows her as she attempts to break into the music business and make it to the country music mecca that is Nashville, Tennessee.
I liked the plot; it wasn’t particularly unexpected, drawing on shows like American Idol for inspiration, but I always enjoy these kind of journey-stories, and particularly liked the music aspect. The addition of some cute boys helped, too.
What was surprising, however, was the overall tone of the book. Scrofano chose to write a young, naive character who was extremely religious; throughout the book she (and other characters) regularly pray and consider the morality of their actions. Combined with the extremely Southern mannerisms of the characters – there were lots of ‘ma’am”s, and ‘mama”s – this did at times make the story saccharine sweet. That said, from what I know, this is a pretty realistic representation of the South, so while unfamiliar to me, it didn’t feel fake.
Scrofano’s aim was to write a book for young adults that was more age-appropriate than many of the other, far more explicit, books in the same genre. Personally, I think this was an admirable aim, and fairly well executed. It’s extremely difficult to write a relatively sex-free book aimed at Young Adults, and keep young readers interested. As far as Christian Fiction is concerned, I’d consider this one of the better examples. In a more general Young Adult category, I suspect that many readers might be startled by the restraint showed by Scrofano in holding off on throwing her main characters into bed. That said, the Ollie’s best friend and older sister were less reserved, so perhaps it all balances out.
My main issue with the book was with the relationship between the two main characters. In practically the first page, Ollie introduces herself to Jack (the boy who will take centre stage in her life for the rest of the book), and immediately decides that they are connected – with scarcely a dozen words exchanged. This felt very unrealistic, and I wasn’t sure why Scrofano rushed the connection. Ollie goes on to flip between saying that she’s falling for him and that she just thinks of him as a friend, which got a little frustrating, as it was obvious that she’d fallen for him in that first conversation, regardless of what she later said… That aside, as the book progressed, their interactions became more authentic.
Personally, knowing that Scrofano plans for this to be the first book in a series of at least three, I wasn’t too upset that Ollie and Jack didn’t race into a physical relationship. I’m of the mind that young people these days grow up too quickly, and believe that it’s normal to be sexually active from a young age. I know, that makes me sound like a Grandma. But I think if you’re not mature enough to understand the consequences of something, then you shouldn’t be doing it! I liked that this book portrayed a different way of growing up; if there were more books for like this for maturing readers, then maybe they’d feel like there are more options than just sleeping around because it’s ‘what everyone does’.
So, you see, this relatively simple book raised a whole set of issues about society, that really set me thinking. I definitely recommend giving it a try, and seeing what you think. It’s available from Amazon here. I’d be interested in knowing what you think!