Here we are at the final individual novella in the Shooting Stars mini-series. These books have provided me with an easy escape from the tail-end of summer. Thus, I can admit that I’ve enjoyed hate-reading them. So let’s take one last deep-dive review into a hastily-plotted V.C. Andrews novel, Honey.
IN HER MUSIC, SHE FOUND SWEET SALVATION
Honey grew up on a farm under her strict, fanatically religious grandfather’s disapproving eye. To him, everything is a sin — from her natural-born talent for the violin to her innocent interest in boys and dating — and life is a treacherous path to be walked in fear. When Honey is paired for music practice with a brilliant piano student, wealthy Chandler Maxwell, she discovers a true soul mate. But when a shocking family secret comes to light, Honey discovers the starling cause of her grandfather’s bitter fury. And her own precious joy be lost forever…
About the Book
As I’ve mentioned already, Honey is the 4th and final individual protagonist’s story in the Shooting Stars series. The Goodreads reviews state that it was worse than others. While the book’s setting and family-drama take place in a V.C. Andrews universe, its condensed plot mainly consists of a dumb relationship.
Happy late 90’s – early 00’s teen movie throwback, everyone!
My copy of Honey is in pretty similar condition to the other books I own in the series. (I got the first 4 books at the same thrift store, all likely owned by the same reader.) One-handed reading took its toll on the bottom binding. There’s one spine crease. The top right corner of the book dons a pretty visible crease.
There’s something I really like about reading low-quality mass-market paperbacks. I’ve always been careful with my books. Owning some beat-up ones has helped me appreciate the worn-in features of each book. On the plus side, I added to their stories by reading them in the bath, giving their pages that nice swollen look from the steam.
The bulk of pretty much every other novel in the Shooting Stars series (aside from Cinnamon) centers around a relationship. Ice had Balwin. Rose had Barry. Honey is no exception in that her relationship with Chandler is pretty much the entirety of the book’s plot. While family tension DOES exist within the pages, the tension fails to live up to typical V.C. Andrews standards.
An Innocent & Pretty, Yet Completely Naive Female Protagonist
Honey Forman is a high school senior who lives on a family farm in Ohio and plays the violin. She’s an only child to her father, Issac, and her mother, a Russian immigrant who talks a lot about being a Russian immigrant. Honey’s pretty strong in that she speaks her mind and has some good quips form time to time. Her “special talent” is playing the violin. Unlike other protagonists in this series (looking at you Cinnamon and Rose!), she is actually professionally-trained in her skillset.
I will give Andrew Neiderman (V.C. Andrews’s posthumous ghostwriter) an ounce of credit for at least attempting to make Honey a protagonist who has her head on her shoulders. She has a few good quips and take-downs in this book. While she does have herself a good cry from time to time, she thankfully isn’t a sob-fiend like professional waterworks machine, Dawn Cutler.
Also of note is that Honey gets mocked for her name. I only point this out because Cinnamon never received the same kind of treatment. Even Rose got some mockery, for shit’s sake, and she’s got the most normal name of the lot.
Mom named me Honey because of my naturally light-brown complexion and the honey colour of my hair and my eyes. I understood Grandad Forman immediately let it be known that he didn’t think it was proper, but Mommy was able to put up a strong wall of resistance and brush off his tirade of threats and commands.
Like mother, like daughter, I guess?
A Tragic Death
This book kicks off with the death of Honey’s most-favourite uncle ever, Uncle Peter. As readers, we don’t get to experience the death, but rather, we get to hear about it when Honey explains (in beginning-of-the-book flashback exposition) that his crop duster went down and the whole family was really sad about it, save for Grandad Forman, who doesn’t process his pain because he’s too close to God or whatever.
Uncle Peter was the one who gifted Honey her prized violin and encouraged her to play. Honey spends the entire first chapter talking about him and the family’s history. Other than the fact that the whole family’s sad, this plot point doesn’t do much to really kick the story into motion.
A Beloved Doting Paternal Figure
Honey doesn’t exactly bond with her father until chapter 3. This chapter also contains the first actual scene in the novel, wherein Honey talks with her dad about Uncle Peter’s death and about Uncle Simon, her father’s half-brother who Grandad has forced to live in the upper floor of the barn that holds the cows.
“Daddy”, otherwise known as Issac to those of us who can’t stand all the childish referencing to parents, is a pretty decent dude, but also isn’t quite the doting paternal figure that us V.C. Andrews fans have come to expect from dad characters.
Some Good Olde School Misogyny
Other than a few scenes where Grandad Forman accuses Honey of having intimate relations with her Uncle Peter, there’s not a lot of misogyny here. Even Grandad’s accusations aren’t so much misogynistic than they are your standard “over-zealous religious character going off on his moralistic soapbox” affair.
The boyfriend Chandler is respectable. He’s rich but super awkward because he’s rich, and when Honey first starts dating him, a bunch of her classmates make fun of her just for the sake of creating some semblance of tension.
There is, however, this great example of a white dude writing as a female in a classic “girl judging her body while looking in a mirror” scene:
I sat at my vanity table and stared at my image in the mirror, wondering if I was at all attractive. Was my nose too small, my lips too thing, my eyes too close together?
I stood up and began to undress, gazing at myself as I stripped down to bare skin. I had a figure people called perky, cute. Would I ever be beautiful? It seemed to me that boys didn’t take cute girls seriously, only the girls who were beautiful. I’d always look too young. When I once voiced such a complaint, Mommy told me to just wait twenty years. I’d love being considered too young then, but who wanted to wait so long to be happy about myself now.
I realized I was standing nude in front of my mirror and judging my breasts, my curves, and my wait. Was this sinful? Would I be punished for my vanity?
That last line particularly bugs me because she’s judging her breasts and her curves and her waist. Otherwise known as her fucking assets. Male gaze shit. In my teenage mirror-gazing sessions, I slouched my shoulders down in the most unappealing way possible and pushed out my gut until it was distended to max potential. Then I’d squeeze my stomach fat real hard in my fists and think YOU’RE SO FUCKING UGLY! YOU’LL NEVER LOOK GOOD IN LOW-RISE JEANS AND YOU’LL NEVER GET A BOYFRIEND, but I guess that kind of shit doesn’t turn on a middle-aged male writer trying to write as teenage girl, so what do I know?
There is no incest in this one, but much like with Rose, there’s some weird family-oriented sexual tension that’s never explained. That sexual tension exists between Honey and her Uncle Simon, who is a “gentle soul” but also a rather large man who was the son of Grandad’s first wife, Tess. Tess’s husband died sometime after Simon’s birth and eventually married Grandad Foreman. After Tess died of breast cancer, Grandad did the traditional Christian thing and married Tess’s younger sister, Jennie (mother of Issac and Peter). When Jennie died of a heart attack, Grandad Forman moved Uncle Peter into the barn and forbid him from taking part in family activities.
Uncle Simon’s view from the barn also looks into Honey’s bedroom window, and after the stupid “girl looks at herself in the mirror” scene that I mentioned above, Honey realizes this:
Outside, the moon has just gone over the west side of the house. Like a giant yellow spotlight, it light up the barn and my step-uncle Simon’s window. He was sitting there, looking toward mine.
And I realized that I had left it wide open while I had been studying my naked body. Had he been there that entire time?
Incestuous voyeurism is another long-running V.C. Andrews trope that once again makes its self know for no other reason than to be shocking.
A Vivid Gothic Setting
The Forman property is an expansive 500-acre corn farm in Ohio. Everyone (aside from Uncle Simon) lives in a “turn-of-the-century two-story” house with a wraparound porch. It’s a classic home and a classic setting with the barn and the pretty flowers and stuff. While not exactly the gothic mansion we’re accustomed to seeing in V.C. Andrews novels, it did still lure my imagination a bit, as I’ve always been fond of farm-like settings.
A Hostile Maternal Figure (+ Bonus Mean Girl!)
Honey is lacking in this classic V.C. Andrews staple, so let’s just talk about Grandad Forman, who is pretty much inspired by Olivia Foxworth (the grandmother from Flowers in the Attic). He’s your standard fundamentalist Bible-thumper in that he’s judgmental of everyone around him and doesn’t go to church because “he’s got his own beliefs”.
Once Honey’s relationship with Chandler start to evolve, Grandad Forman’s always stumbling into their dates like an urban legend serial killer.
He rambles a lot about bloodlines, and honesty I thought I had the “twist” figured out that Uncle Peter was actually Honey’s dad (which would have made his references in the book the least bit significant, but noooooooooo). We find out in the book’s climax — when Uncle Simon’s trying to murder Grandad for destroying his flowers — that the deep family secret is that Grandad Forman is Uncle Simon’s REAL FATHER.
Grandad runs away instead of facing reality that at one point he impregnated a married woman (Tess) who ended up marrying him anyway. It’s such a bogus plot point that pretty much amounts to a great big WHO GIVES A FUCK?
A Rags to Riches Plot
After Simon learns the truth about who his father is, GranDAD Forman runs into the woods. Later, Issac goes into the woods and finds Grandad dead. After the funeral, the family discovers that Grandad was actually hiding a massive fortune and BOOM! the Forman’s are suddenly the richest family on the farming block.
Honey ultimately masters her audition to the Senetsky School of the Arts and her parents pay the admission fees with hoarded old person wealth. Huzzah!
Some Really Bad Writing
For what it’s worth, when Honey talks about how Uncle Peter’s death affects her, this classic example of Neiderman’s use of elaborate similes really conveys all her teen angst:
I didn’t watch television or listen to music and had no interest in going to the movies or on trips with anyone who asked, so they stopped asking. I felt like a balloon that had broken loose and was drifting in the wind aimlessly, carried in whatever direction the breeze was going, and slowly sinking into darkness.
Here’s another simile that Neiderman uses to show us just how nervous Honey is before her first date with Chandler:
Waiting for Chandler’s arrival, I was so nervous it felt like a small army of ants were parading up from my stomach to march around my drum-pounding heart.
There’s a strong use of insect imagery in this book, one of which I’m positive Neiderman forgot he already wrote once. Remember that horrific spider-inspired passage in the sex scene in Dawn? Eleven years later, it’s back!
Chandler’s right hand moved down behind my shoulder and under my sweater. His fingers and palm traveled like a hungry spider up to my bra clip, which he squeezed and undid so quickly, I barely had a chance to shake my head.
I’ve noticed that Neiderman’s sex scenes always start with a kiss and a lot of groping. This sex scene is two pages long and the word “breast” is used FIVE TIMES. First, Chandler’s hand grazes Honey’s breast. Then he reaches under her sweater and touches her breast. Then he feels under her bra and touches her naked breast. He takes off her bra and touches her breast with his left hand. Then, finally, Chandler lifts her sweater so he can put his lips to her breast. So much breast action in one sex scene. My breasts just can’t handle it!
After the date, Chandler drives Honey home. Grandad Forman accuses her of committing so much sin (though not specifically sin of the breasts). Honey storms off to her room and breaks into full-blown hysterics:
I simply threw myself on my bed and pressed my face into the pillow. Grandad’s horrible words circled me like insistent mosquitoes, biting and stinging. How could he harbor such ugly thoughts in his mind? How could he turn something that had been gentle and kind, loving and beautiful, into the most detestable and ugly ogre of smut and filth. I shook my body as if to throw off the stains.
Fantastic Psychological Horror
As I said already, the entire premise of the book was pretty much shot with the “revelation” that Uncle Simon’s an actual son and not just a step-son. It just made me wish that Uncle Simon was the protagonist. Confined in a barn? Having a nurturing instinct for flowers? Watching a naked niece in her bedroom window? Trying to kill his bio-dad with a scythe?
There’s a decent story on this farm and it ain’t Honey’s.
My Final Rating
Every time I’ve finished one of these books I have a tough time figuring out which one was worse. Ice is clearly the standout book in this series, while the other three, Cinnamon, Rose and Honey, all try to adhere to V.C. Andrews tropes. They all fall flat. My ratings below still give Honey an edge. Apart from the boring romantic plot that takes up much of page count, there’s still enough interesting setting and family dynamics that save it from being truly worthless.
HONEY (Shooting Stars #4)
- Farm settings are cool.
- Honey's not a pushover.
- People sort of mock Honey for her name.
- Grandad dies at the end.
- What was the point of Uncle Peter, other than to give Honey her violin?
- The Honey/Chandler relationship is boring AF.
- The climax isn't much of a climax, despite featuring a shirtless dude wielding a scythe.