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Honey by Isabel Banta

Contemporary fiction

Honey

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Isabel Banta, on your first book!

Early Release

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by Isabel Banta

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Quick take

Rock and roll with this story about the rise of a pop star with a voice like honey that everybody wants a piece of.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Salacious

    Salacious

  • Illustrated icon, Music

    Music

  • Illustrated icon, 90s

    90s

  • Illustrated icon, Glamorous

    Glamorous

Synopsis

A coming-of-age story that follows the meteoric rise of singer Amber Young as she navigates fame in the late-90s and early-2000s era of pop music superstardom.

It is 1997, and Amber Young has received a life-changing call. It’s a chance thousands of girls would die for: the opportunity to join girl group Cloud9 in Los Angeles and escape her small town. She quickly finds herself in the orbits of fellow rising stars Gwen Morris, a driven singer-dancer, and Wes Kingston, a member of the biggest boy band in the world, ETA.

As Amber embarks on her solo career and her fame intensifies, her rich interior life is frequently reduced. Surrounded by people who claim to love her but only wish to exploit her, and driven by a desire for recognition and success, for love and sex, for agency and connection, Amber comes of age at a time when the kaleidoscope of public opinion can distort everything and one mistake can shatter a career.

Isabel Banta’s debut novel, Honey, redefines the narratives of some of the most famous pop icons of the ’90s and 2000s. It reimagines the superstars we idolized and hated, oversexualized and underestimated, and gives them the fresh, multifaceted story they deserve.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Honey.

Honey

2002

New York, NY

Let’s begin with my body. Look to the corner of west Forty-Second and Eighth, where a girl is reaching for a magazine on a newsstand. Around her, skyscrapers beheaded by mist, the stink of a city weaning off summer.

Women are splayed out like bars of candy, ready to be unwrapped. The girl picks up the latest issue of Rolling Stone, recognizing me on the cover. I am draped in fabric the color of honey, of syrup, of ooze. She flips through the heavy paper and finds the article—“WE ARE ALL TRAPPED IN AMBER”—nestled between perfume and cigarette ads. Sonny said I owed everyone an explanation, and here it begins: “Amber Young licks her lips before she speaks. Now they are wet as sap. Her auburn hair is the color of redwoods, her eyes mahogany brown. She speaks so softly I have to lean in closer to hear her properly. This is what she wants, right? When she looks up at me through thick lashes, I can’t help but wonder if the rumors are true. Did these eyes blink and, like a Trojan horse, cause the great city to come crashing down? The city, in this case, being the relationship between Gwen Morris and Wes Kingston?”

If the girl loiters too long, the man behind the counter might ask her if she wants to buy something. She’ll return the magazine to the stack, the pages closing like legs. Or maybe she’ll buy it.

When I imagine what this girl might presume about me, how I might flicker in the backdrop of her life, I want to suck up everything I’ve ever done, wipe away anything I’ve ever stained.

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Why I love it

Despite all evidence to the contrary—my lack of musical talent and a general aversion to cameras, for example—every once in a while I’ll entertain a fantasy that I could become a major pop star. If I wanted to. Look, I say, there are plenty of just-OK singer-songwriters who have broken big. Why not me? Then I read a brilliant, emotionally riveting novel called Honey about the rocky rise of a young musical idol, and let that fantasy go for good…

Amber Young gets the call of a lifetime in 1997. She has been invited to Cloud9, a rising pop girl group, and asked to move from her claustrophobic hometown to glitzy Los Angeles. Quickly falling in with other rising stars and performers, Amber eventually leaves Cloud9 to embark on a solo career. The glare of the spotlight grows brighter as she rises to further fame and fortune. Along the way, she must navigate the pitfalls of public opinion, media toxicity, and unfair gender double standards as she comes of age in public. From the start, you’ll be rooting for her like her most fervent fans, and the show only gets better with each new song.

It is hard to believe Honey is a debut. Isabel Banta writes with such brio and confidence, bringing characters and their unruly lives to visceral life. And like the best earworms, it won’t ever leave your mind or memory once you hear it! Come rock and roll.

Contemporary fiction
The Last Love Note
Anita de Monte Laughs Last
Honey
The Leftover Woman
Interesting Facts about Space
Bye, Baby
Swan Song
The Connellys of County Down
Joe Nuthin’s Guide to Life
Jackpot Summer
Adelaide
The Collected Regrets of Clover
Again and Again
Evil Eye
Black Cake
Maame
Romantic Comedy
Someone Else’s Shoes
Once There Were Wolves
We Are the Brennans
The Bad Muslim Discount
What Comes After
Olga Dies Dreaming
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
Monster in the Middle
My Dark Vanessa
Nine Perfect Strangers
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
Honey Girl
In Every Mirror She's Black
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
Sankofa
The Unsinkable Greta James
The Love of My Life
The Five-Star Weekend
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The Wishing Game
Behold the Dreamers
The Mothers
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Little Fires Everywhere
The Music Shop
Queenie
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Reckless Oath We Made
Dear Edward
When We Were Vikings
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Anxious People
A Good Neighborhood
Big Summer
All Adults Here
Happy & You Know It
Friends and Strangers
The Comeback
True Story
The Last Story of Mina Lee
Troubles in Paradise
White Ivy
This Close to Okay
The Chicken Sisters
The Prophets
The Kindest Lie
In a Book Club Far Away
The Other Black Girl
Apples Never Fall
A Quiet Life
We Are the Light
The Most Likely Club
The Fortunes of Jaded Women
When We Were Bright and Beautiful
The Hotel Nantucket
Contemporary fiction
View all
The Last Love Note
Anita de Monte Laughs Last
Honey
The Leftover Woman
Interesting Facts about Space
Bye, Baby
Swan Song
The Connellys of County Down
Joe Nuthin’s Guide to Life
Jackpot Summer
Adelaide
The Collected Regrets of Clover
Again and Again
Evil Eye
Black Cake
Maame
Romantic Comedy
Someone Else’s Shoes
Once There Were Wolves
We Are the Brennans
The Bad Muslim Discount
What Comes After
Olga Dies Dreaming
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
Monster in the Middle
My Dark Vanessa
Nine Perfect Strangers
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
Honey Girl
In Every Mirror She's Black
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
Sankofa
The Unsinkable Greta James
The Love of My Life
The Five-Star Weekend
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The Wishing Game
Behold the Dreamers
The Mothers
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Little Fires Everywhere
The Music Shop
Queenie
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Reckless Oath We Made
Dear Edward
When We Were Vikings
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Anxious People
A Good Neighborhood
Big Summer
All Adults Here
Happy & You Know It
Friends and Strangers
The Comeback
True Story
The Last Story of Mina Lee
Troubles in Paradise
White Ivy
This Close to Okay
The Chicken Sisters
The Prophets
The Kindest Lie
In a Book Club Far Away
The Other Black Girl
Apples Never Fall
A Quiet Life
We Are the Light
The Most Likely Club
The Fortunes of Jaded Women
When We Were Bright and Beautiful
The Hotel Nantucket