Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On My Honor ~ by Marion Dane Bauer

On My Honor ~ by Marion Dane Bauer, 1986, YA fiction

How serious are you, really, when you promise something? Your honor is at stake when you promise, as Joel learned after he and his friend Tony swam in the treacherous Vermillion River. Joel's father had said:
"On your honor? ... You'll watch for traffic and you won't go anywhere except the park? You'll be careful the whole way?"

"On my honor," Joel repeated, and he crossed his heart, solemnly, then raised his right hand (p. 8).
On the way to the park, however, Tony dared Joel to swim in the river they had promised never to go near -- and Tony disappeared in the water. Joel tried to find Tony, even got help from a passing teenager. But Tony could not be found.

Joel was devastated, but he was also terrified at the thought of having to tell his parents and -- worse -- Tony's mother. So he didn't tell. And the longer he waited, the harder it was to admit what they had done. Joel tried to carry on that afternoon, rolling and delivering newspapers on his route, pretending he didn't know where Tony was, but he wanted to yell at Tony and struggled with his feelings:
Why did he feel so responsible, as though he had pushed Tony in? Why did he always have to feel responsible for everything that happened? If they had gone climbing on the bluffs and he, Joel, had fallen, Tony wouldn't have blamed himself. Would he? (p. 66)
Yet Joel was also feeling protective of his little brother, thinking he "would have to teach Bobby how to swim" (p. 67). Near the end of that awful day, Joel learned something he hadn't known when Tony's mother said,
"Tony can't swim. He's know better than to go near the river."

"He can't swim?" Joel asked... "Really?" (p. 71)
When he got home, Joel wondered:
Why hadn't Tony thought about his mother, about the way she worried, before he had decided to go for a swim? (p. 72)
But he still couldn't bring himself to tell the adults what had happened. This wasn't the first time I'd read this book. Both times through the book I was thinking like any parent:
"It's the not-knowing that's the worse" (p. 70).

"Nothing could change what had happened ... ever" (p. 82).
What Joel's father said, after everyone knew what had happened, are the words I'll remember:
"But we all made choices today, Joel. You, me, Tony. Tony's the only one who doesn't have to live with his choice" (p. 88).
I rate this Young Adult novel 10/10, a book I couldn't put down.


CJ said...

That sounds like an interesting story. Not sure it's one I'd want to read... but then again, maybe.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

It's one I think young people should read. It's a book most adults can read in a short time and then be able to recommend, which I've been doing for years. And it's also the reason I chose to re-read it and review it ... to recommend it to YOU folks so you could pass it on.

alisonwonderland said...

for some reason i've been thinking about this book lately. (i think it's because i saw it on a banned books list, but i'm not certain.) i read it about seven years ago when my oldest daughter read it for her fourth grade class at school. it's an absolutely fantastic book - especially for generating discussion about making choices. i ought to re-read it soon!

Anonymous said...

I think my son would really like this. Thanks for the review!

Ladytink_534 said...

Oh wow. It sounds good but also like it would be really depressing though

Unknown said...

This sounds like an intense, gripping and heart breaking read. Ah the choices we make, the choices...

Anonymous said...

Bonnie, I left you a prize on my blog!! Have a great day =)

Anonymous said...

Still in my bathrobe but look what I found: A post called "The People I Want to Thank." It was my third post when my blog was brand new three years ago?

I'm still deciding what to wear that will look good with the red carpet.

Unknown said...