cover image Mad Honey

Mad Honey

Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. Ballantine, $29.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-9848-1838-6

Picoult (Wish You Were Here) joins forces with novelist and transgender activist Boylan (Long Black Veil) for a spellbinding yarn involving a teen’s trial for murder. Beekeeper Olivia McAfee fled her abusive husband in Boston for New Hampshire with her six-year-old son, Asher. Twelve years later, Asher is charged with murdering his high school girlfriend, Lily, a newcomer to town. The story unfolds from Olivia and Lily’s viewpoints (Lily’s before the murder), and centers on the budding relationship between Asher and Lily and the subsequent court case against Asher, who is represented by Olivia’s older brother, Jordan, a high-profile defense attorney who has appeared in previous Picoult novels. Both teens have troubled relationships with their fathers, and the authors painstakingly explore the impact of physically and emotionally abusive men on their families. After a big reveal in the second half, the canvas stretches to include a primer on transgender issues, and the shift is mostly seamless though sometimes didactic. More successful is the atmospheric texture provided with depictions of Olivia harvesting honey and the art of beekeeping, and the riveting trial drama. Overall, it’s a fruitful collaboration. (Oct.)