18 November 2020

Review: Honeybee by Craig Silvey

Honeybee by Craig Silvey book cover
Published September 2020
RRP $32.99 AUD
* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Sam Watson's voice captured my heart immediately and wouldn't let go. All I knew about Honeybee going in was the premise. A 14yo boy Sam climbs over the rail of an overpass and is ready to jump. At the other end of the same bridge is an older man Vic, smoking his last cigarette. The two make eye contact and their lives change from that moment on.

Wow, what a premise! I was instantly hooked and the relationship between Sam and Vic slowly crept up on me. Sam is a young teen on a journey of self discovery and Vic is dealing with grief and a loss of identity and purpose. The trajectories of their lives filled me with hope and their unforgettable relationship produced an unexpected coming-of-age story.

A lot goes on and I did have to suspend my belief quite a few times, however readers everywhere are falling in love with Sam and I'm predicting some awards will follow for Honeybee.

I also predict much will be made of the author writing a teenage trans character given he is a straight cis-gender man himself, but I won't be doing that here. I'm all for own voices - obviously - but I believe the job of an author is to imagine, research and write.... fiction! Ken Follett wasn't alive in 997AD and has no lived experience of the era, yet he researched and gave us The Evening and the Morning. Christopher Paolini hasn't been to space (at least I don't think he has) yet he gave us a stellar space opera To Sleep In A Sea of Stars.

Authors write characters with all kinds of traits and experiences they themselves doesn't possess, and as a reader, I don't feel the need to examine every book to determine whether or not the author has the lived experience of the main character. It's just not important to me. 

I do care whether the writing is good, the plot engaging and the characters convincing. In this case, Sam Watson felt very real to me and I cared deeply about him as the book progressed.

Re-reading my 2014 review of Jasper Jones, I wrote that "Jasper Jones is a coming-of-age story with a distinct Australian feel" and I can honestly say the same about Honeybee. However, don't be fooled, Honeybee is nothing like Jasper Jones. The two young protagonists in both books are completely different; the only thing uniting them being that Silvey has done a great job of offering the reader another moving coming-of-age story set in WA.

It's been 10 years since the release and subsequent success of Jasper Jones and I really enjoyed listening to the author chat with Cheryl Akle about Honeybee and books on the Better Reading podcast. Silvey is such a terrific Australian talent and yet remains so likeable and humble about his writing success that you can't help but trust him as a reader.

Honeybee by Craig Silvey is highly recommended for YA and adult readers and I look forward to whatever he writes next.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great review Tracey. I agree with your sentiments. People are so quick to criticise and find fault now with every little thing an author writes.

    1. Thanks for the support Veronica, I know what you mean.

  2. Lovely review Tracey, I thought this was a very affecting read. I also agree with you, while #ownvoices definitely has its value, it’s not an exclusive right.

  3. I agree completely - on all points. I loved this novel so much and Craig has put a lot of effort into the representation contained within and I hope that anyone eager to jump on that bandwagon does some fact checking beforehand! He truly is a brilliant writer. One of our best.


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