Title: On My HonorOn My Honor
Author: Marion Dane Bauer
Pages: 90
Reading Level: 13 & up
Star Rating: ★★

When I saw the front cover I thought, “Hey, this looks cute! A couple of little boys riding bikes, how innocent and light-hearted!”


The Story.

Tony can really be annoying. I mean, take now for example. He’s determined to take a hike up Starved Rock Bluffs even though Joel wants to go swimming. He’s Joel’s best friend, but REALLY, that is so boring. Joel’s only hope is that his father will refuse them permission to go.

But he DOESN’T! He agrees to let two kids, really, climb the most dangerous rock formation in the area. And now Joel’s stuck. He has to go because he pretended to want to go because he thought his dad would say no. Oh, whatever……

But while they bike to the peak – Tony would take the better bike – Tony gets distracted. He stops by the bridge that spans the Vermillion River, and then he suggests that they go swimming. Since when has Tony EVER wanted to swim?

But Joel’s all for it. I mean, swimming is so way better than hiking. And when he and Tony get into an argument over who’s braver, the only natural thing is for them to swim out over the dangerous part of the river and see who can make it to the other side first.

And so they start. At first they’re pretty even, but Joel pulls ahead. He can hear Tony panting and wheezing behind him, but that’s what the little wimp GETS for thinking he can last as far as Joel. When he gets to the far side he looks back, grinning to see how far behind Tony is. But the strange thing is, he can’t actually see him. He must be swimming underwater. Or playing some sort of trick. Because he couldn’t really…. Tony couldn’t….. WHERE IS TONY?

Joel dives. And dives again. He searches up and down the river until his lungs feel like bursting. But Tony can’t be…..

He stops a car on the road and drags the driver out to help him. The boy dives and dives and comes up…. With nothing.

What has happened? Whatever it is, it isn’t Joel’s fault! But would people believe….they were angry with each other…he can’t tell….no one needs to know that he knew that Tony was swimming….


On My Honor is what I would call a psychologically complex story. The main part of the story occurs after Tony has drowned, and rather than being concerned with relating a certain set of events or circumstances, the book seeks to draw you in and morph you with the protagonist. It does this by relating every confused thought and emotion that Joel experiences, holding you in a bizarre state of calmness and hysteria. Because it relates every thought in this way it’s quite realistic, but also a bit disturbing. On My Honor is eerie because it tells a story that is a bit freakish, but makes it seem like normal life. It was so involving, that there was actually a point in the narrative where I was mentally urging the protagonist to do a better job lying! I quickly caught and stoicized myself, but I was shocked that this little book could so absorb me.

After Tony drowns, Joel is frantic. Because they had just had an argument, he thinks that people will think that he killed Tony. So he constructs an entirely fictitious account of his afternoon, denying that he knew where Tony was after a certain time, and seeking to save his face by blatant and repeated lying. In the end his bluff is discovered and he turns upon his father, blaming him for the accident.

Joel calls his little brother a dummy to his face.

Joel and Tony show a disrespectful attitude towards their parents. This comment is made of Joel’s father when they are trying to goad him into giving them permission to leave.

His father merely accepted Tony’s word for it – grown-ups could be really dense sometimes. [pg. 7]

When Joel stops the car on the road he comments that a blond girl was “sitting next to the boy, so close that she could have been sharing the driving.” [pg. 38]

After Joel finally tells his father what happened, he asks whether there’s a heaven. His father says that no one really knows, but that if there is one, it wouldn’t be closed to a ‘charming, reckless boy’ like Tony.

‘H—‘ and ‘d—‘ (fully spelled), ‘doggone’ and ‘frigging’ are each used once.

Conclusion. Perhaps if your older children are ever studying the ‘stream of conscious’ style then this book would be helpful, but I wouldn’t recommend it for young readers.

Review © 2012 Laura Verret

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