Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of pages: 308
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked
It is summer in the Northwest town of Nine Mile Falls, and sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen, ordinarily dubbed The Quiet Girl, finds herself hanging out with gorgeous, rich, thrill-seeking Travis Becker. But Ruby is in over her head, and finds she is risking more and more when she’s with him.
In an effort to keep Ruby occupied, Ruby’s mother Ann drags Ruby to the weekly book club she runs. When it is discovered that one of the group”s own members is the subject of the tragic love story they are reading, Ann and Ruby spearhead a reunion between the long-ago lovers. But for Ruby, this mission turns out to be much more than just a road trip….
* * *
I’ve had Deb Caletti’s Wild Roses lying around at home for more than a year now but I never found the time to read it because I never really thought I would enjoy it. That’s me judging a book and an author without any valid basis, and my only defense is that I read from some blogs in my reader how Deb Caletti books didn’t work for them. So I figured that I may not like it too.
And then friends started recommending Honey, Baby, Sweetheart to me, so I was mildly curious. Of course it had to be the Deb Caletti book that is the hardest to find — is it because it’s a National Book Award finalist? I don’t know. But when I finally found it, I decided not to let it go because I was curious.
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart sounds like your typical YA romance from the title alone, so I was kind of expecting that when I started reading it. Here we meet Ruby McQueen, The Quiet Girl, who finds herself hanging out with rich, gorgeous and mysterious thrill-seeker Travis Becker (who can afford to get several gift card sleeves if he wanted to). With Travis, Ruby felt like a different girl — someone who isn’t quiet, someone who can do the things normal Ruby wouldn’t do. But when she discovers some things about Travis that means trouble, she finds herself in over her head. To keep her distracted, her mom brings her to her book club meeting where they discover one of their members is the subject of the love story that they were discussing. Too crazy? Together they embark on a road trip to reunite the lovers, and as with all road trips, Ruby discovers more about herself in the process.
And this is where I eat my words about me probably not liking any Deb Caletti book. I was a third into the book when I felt that tug inside me that told me I will like this book no matter how it ended. I was never the quiet girl but I liked Ruby and I connected with her uncertainties and her attachment with Travis. I could identify with her need to be with him even if she couldn’t understand it, even if I’m not the kind of girl who likes bad guys. :P But I liked Ruby, and her voice, and I liked how it was quite easy to understand her and how she couldn’t understand that part of her that liked Travis so much. I also liked the supporting characters, especially Ruby’s mom and her brother, and the rest of the book club members that she gets to know. It made me realize that I like wacky old people in books — they’re almost always such a hoot.
The book had a distinct summer feel that made me just relax whenever I go back to reading it. It’s such a comforting read even if some of the situations in the book were kind of heavy on the emotional side. I guess it’s the writing that made it so comforting — Caletti has a way with words that may seem flowery to some but it hit just the right spot for me. Case in point, one of my favorite parts:
You could see the magic we all had that day. The magic that comes with the force of a mission, lit with a fine and rare energy. The magic of purpose and of love in its purest form. Not television love, with its glare and hollow and sequined glint; not sex and allure, all high shoes and high drama, everything both too small and in too much excess, but just love. Love like rain, like the smell of tangerine, like a surprise found in your pocket. We were all part of that. (p.198)
Sigh. It made me want to be a part of that adventure that they were all about to embark on.
The story is reminiscent of the Letters to Juliet movie, and the road trip isn’t really anything like how John Green does it, but there’s a pretty satisfying ending that just made me sigh with happiness. I like that this isn’t just about romance, but really about love and the ties that bind us together. I especially liked how love was described in the context of books:
We are all a volume on a shelf of a library, a story unto ourselves, never possibly described with one word or even very accurately with thousands. A person is never as quiet or unrestrained as they seem, or as bad or good, as vulnerable or as strong, as sweet or as feisty; we are thickly layered, page upon lying page, behind simple covers. And love – it is not the book itself, but the binding. It can rip us apart or hold us together.
This is definitely the kind of book that I would recommend to any teenage girl who’s looking for herself, and the kind that I think my younger self would probably really like (understanding is another thing, though! :P). And this is one of those books that I will probably go back to every now and then when I’m feeling lost.
So, I totally take back what I said/pre-judged about Deb Caletti. I really, really enjoyed Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. It’s definitely one of my best reads for this year on the contemporary YA front. :) While I’m not ready to declare my love for the author just yet, I think I’m going to bump Wild Roses up my TBR soon. :)
Rating: (but very close to a 5)
Chachic’s Book Nook