Gr 9 Up—Twin teens Caroline and Marshall (who is genderfluid and goes by Mars) grew up attending summer camp at the very exclusive and expensive Aspen Conservancy in the Catskills. Mars hasn't gone in years, but when Caroline arrives home from Aspen unexpectedly and tries to kill Mars but ends up dead herself, he insists on taking her place there to discover the reason for her behavior. Upon arriving, Mars can sense the decay beneath the polished surface, but the longer he is there the less reliable his mind becomes. Between the distraction of cute, smart Wyatt and the friendship of Caroline's camp sisterhood, The Honeys, Mars finds it more and more difficult to focus even as he is drawn closer to Aspen's dark truth. La Sala deftly balances the persistent, deep ache of grief with a deeply unsettling and unnerving atmosphere where something is clearly and palpably wrong, carefully threading a string of clues that are just beyond readers until the right moment. The cloying nostalgia of the camp's history provides the thinnest of covers for entrenched and fragile concepts of masculinity and propriety, a world where asking questions is dangerous and questioning the status quo is deadly. This layered, complex, and at times truly disturbing novel creates an ever-heightening level of suspense, ratcheting up to an explosive conclusion that readers will not see coming but will find imminently believable and completely unforgettable. VERDICT A sparkling and powerful exploration of grief, gender roles, and escaping the strong grip of expectations, this is a must-purchase for all libraries serving teens.—Allie Stevens
A genderfluid 17-year-old attends a seemingly idyllic summer camp in order to investigate their twin sister’s death.
Close-knit siblings Caroline and Mars enjoyed what appears to be a fortunate, economically privileged existence, insulated from life’s worries, until Caroline’s violent death turns Mars’ world inside out. At the funeral service, Mars meets the beautiful girls from the elite Summer Academy at the Aspen Conservancy, friends Caroline called the Honeys—and becomes suspicious about the cause of Caroline’s sudden deterioration. Determined to discover the secrets Caroline kept about her friends and life at camp, Mars returns to Aspen, a place they once fled following a disastrous incident and where they face battles as a gender-nonconforming outsider. They try and discover what the aloof Honeys may be hiding by joining their work at the camp’s apiary. Events soon take strange and fantastic twists as Mars realizes that time and people seem to vanish. Mars’ comfort in these new relationships falters more than once, and unusual experiences test their trust. Answers come, if slowly, in this novel that is ideal for patient readers who enjoy a strong narrative voice and careful examination of inner and outer obstacles. La Sala delivers a sharply observed, imaginative tale of grief, destruction, and the transcendent nature of the reinvention that follows the aftermath of death. Most main characters are assumed White.
As rich and complex as dark amber honey. (Paranormal horror. 14-18)
Praise for The Honeys
★"La Sala gives real-life fears a supernatural twist, cleverly using folk horror and psychological-thriller elements to heighten Mars' understandable tension and infuse this idyllic location with dread.... The eerily ambivalent conclusion is pure horror gold." Booklist(starred review)
★ "La Sala's slow plot reveal is gripping, and the narrative's lush prose crafts both deliciously creepy horror scenes and a nuanced, self-assured protagonist consumed by grief and longing for acceptance." Publishers Weekly(starred review)
★ "This layered, complex, and at times truly disturbing novel creates an ever-heightening level of suspense, ratcheting up to an explosive conclusion that readers will not see coming but will find imminently believable and completely unforgettable. A sparkling and powerful exploration of grief, gender roles, and escaping the strong grip of expectations..." School Library Journal(starred review)
"La Sala delivers a sharply observed, imaginative tale of grief, destruction, and the transcendent nature of the reinvention that follows the aftermath of death.... As rich and complex as dark amber honey." Kirkus Reviews
"A dark and redolent tale of familial bonds, grief, and a secretive summer camp tucked away in the heart of forests vast and dizzyingly wild. The Honeys creeped me out and I loved every moment of it." Erin A. Craig, New York Timesbestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrow
"Novel after novel, La Sala proves himself to be a powerhouse in the YA space worthy of all the flowers that come his way. With crisp prose, a hauntingly stellar cast, and a main character we can't help but root for, The Honeys is a perfect successor for fans of Midsommar and Hereditary chomping at the bit for their next great obsession. Just, watch out for the bees." Kosoko Jackson, author of Yesterday Is History
"The queer horror hive has a new queen! In The Honeys, La Sala pulls readers into a darkly poetic, razor-sharp satire of gender binaries and the binary of good and evil. A grim, beautiful exploration of the human body, its horrific surprises as well as its transcendent power."
Adam Sass, award-winning author of Surrender Your Sons and The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers
Praise for Beholder
★ "La Sala balances inventive gruesomeness with thematic depth in this bewitching horror novel, a tale laced with spine-chilling gore.... The result is a top-notch horror novel and a tearjerker." Publishers Weekly(starred review)
"New York City, with all its grime and shine, is a fitting backdrop for this novel, which also weaves in elements of folklore and urban fantasy, giving the story a uniquely ominous and epic feel.... Gritty and imaginative: modern noir that'll leave you wary of your reflection." Kirkus Reviews
"This book is a wild ride..." USA Today
"Unnerving, intricate, and glittering with La Sala's trademark wit. You'll be scared of your own reflection after this one." Rory Power, New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down
"Beholder takes readers through a glass darkly, and into a spellbinding, spine-tingling world no one but Ryan la Sala could have dreamed up."Caleb Roehrig, author of Last Seen Leaving and The Fell of Dark
"If it's unhinged horror of the mind, you know it's a La Sala. This berserk beauty is a joy to behold, and when you're done reading, you'll be avoiding mirrors for weeks!" Adam Sass, award-winning author of Surrender Your Sons and Your Lonely Nights Are Over