Flor’s summer is officially ruined when she’s asked to take part in a pageant as part of the Honey Festival her town puts on every year. And it gets worse because she has to do it with her worst enemy, Candice. With her best friend gone at summer camp and her parents fighting over finances, Flor isn’t sure she will survive the summer.
Title: Honeybees and Frenemies
Author: Kristi Wientge
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genres: MG Contemporary
I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
It’s the summer before eighth grade and Flor is stuck at home and working at her family’s mattress store, while her best friend goes off to band camp (probably to make new friends). It becomes even worse when she’s asked to compete in the local honey pageant. This means Flor has to spend the summer practicing her talent (recorder) and volunteering (helping a recluse bee-keeper) with Candice, her former friend who’s still bitter about losing the pageant crown to Flor when they were in second grade. And she can’t say no.
Then there’s the possibility that Flor and her family are leaving to move in with her mom’s family in New Jersey. And with how much her mom and dad have been fighting lately, is it possible that her dad may not join them? Flor can’t let that happen. She has a lot of work to do.
Flor is honest-to-goodness the best. She’s smart, sassy, loving, and determined. All of her problems feel so relatable and heart wrenching–I just wanted to cheer her on. Also, she’s a crocheter, so she instantly stole my heart.
Her relationships with her family both heartwarming and tender…and hilarious and sad. Flor’s older sister is fickle–sometimes she’s annoyed with Flor, and sometimes she wants to help her. Sounded like me when I was younger…(as a big sis to three). Her dad is a bit of an oddball, but really lovable. Her mom is a little tougher, but understandable in her decisions.
All of these family dynamics really drew me into the story. All of the hard things they have to go through are so hard, and Flor just wants to fix everything. Her character development was so perfect.
And then there’s Candice, Flor’s arch nemesis. I won’t say much, but I love the way these two grow together.
There are other minor characters that are just as wonderful. Every character played a part in this story–none of them felt unnecessary.
This book is very character driven, but the main driving plot is still a lot of fun. The whole story is based around this Honey Festival where the whole town goes insane about honey (it’s hilarious). Flor and Candice have to work together to try and win the pageant–they both have their own reasons for winning, but they also really don’t like each other.
Then there’s the old man with the bees, the mattress store and the mattress suit, Flor’s friend away at camp… there’s a surprising number of subplots in this book, but they all pushed the main plot forward beautifully and added a lot of depth to Flor’s and Candice’s story.
And that ending. I loved it so much.
This is very much a middle grade novel, but I don’t think the author wrote in such a way that felt condescending to the book’s audience. The descriptions are beautiful, and Flor’s voice really jumps out as unique and fun. Flor even uses a ton of metaphors to describe things, which kind of surprised me, since it is a 12-year-old telling the story. But that’s not really a critique, more of just an observation.
This book is the perfect book to read right before summer–it will really make its readers hungry to get out of school (and maybe visit a honeybee farm). Its overall messages of love, support, and being responsible for your actions are woven in really nicely–and the environmental aspect of the book doesn’t overwhelm the story. I definitely recommend it.