I absolutely adored book one in the Honest June series, and I was beyond excited to get an advanced copy of the second book.
June is still grappling with Victoria’s curse/gift of always telling the truth. This time, she’s hiding her desire to star in the school’s production of The Wiz from her dad, who often disparages the arts as a profession. When her best guy friend –and current crush– tells her he is interested in spending more time with her friend Nia, June is hurt, and finds herself hiding another part of herself: not only her feelings for her friend, Lee, but also his feelings for Nia. With all of these secrets up in the air, June relies heavily on her private blog diary to record her truths without facing any consequences. But as June lets all her darkest thoughts flow into her safe online space, she starts getting a bit meaner, and moves a bit further away from herself.
At first, this evolution of June’s character was really surprising to me. But then I remembered being a middle schooler, and teaching middle schoolers, and sometimes turning their cruelest thoughts on others keeps them from seeing their own flaws and turning that mean gaze on themselves. I was crushed to see June behaving this way, but Wells shows how even the most good-hearted of us can take a wrong turn.
There are so many wonderful topics addressed in this book. From friendship trouble to parent problems to first crushes, June goes through it all during the winter and spring of her first year of middle school. One thing I wish would have been better addressed is Nia’s behavior. Nia and June have been best friends since they were babies, but Nia’s behavior in books one and two is gradually more and more toxic. June keeps trying to right her wrongs and be a good friend, and Nia keeps shutting her out and throwing shade every chance she gets. The fact that June’s mom, who seems so clued in otherwise, is totally out of the loop on this is surprising. It feels like she would have noticed, and addressed it. After all, just last book she was so involved in June’s life she was picking out her clothes!
The other part of this edition that didn’t sit right with me is the ending. Without any spoilers, the ending is a cliffhanger. I was shocked to turn the (digital) page with 10% of the book left and find the acknowledgments and a preview of book one. Like, what!? Where’s the ending!? This could be an e-galley issue and there will be more of a wrap-up in the published version, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the true ending. It sets up the reader for book 3, but some young readers are going to be mad they have to wait until APRIL for the next book!
As with the first book, the illustrations add to the story without being distracting. It’s so refreshing to see illustrations in a middle grade book, and these are especially fantastic.
All in all, Honest June: The Show Must Go On is a great follow up to book one, Honest June, and can definitely serve as a cautionary tale as to what to share with whom and where.
Honest June: The Show Must Go On is available now. You can purchase it from Bookshop.org here. Book one, Honest June, can be purchased here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.
Thank you to author Tina Wells, NetGalley, and Random House Children’s publishing for an advanced copy such that I could share my honest opinions.