by Jenni L. Walsh
Series: Bonnie #1
Published on May 9, 2017 by Forge Books
Genres: Adult, Historical
From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh, Becoming Bonnie is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo!
The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc’s.
Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn't know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.
She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow.
Few details are known about Bonnie's life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In Becoming Bonnie, Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon—and turned to crime herself.
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I never imagined I’d find myself reading a book about Bonnie and Clyde (well, Bonnie specifically, as the title suggests) but here I am and I have to say that it was both what I expected and not at the same time, but not necessarily in a bad way.
For starters, historical fiction is always a hit or miss for me unless it’s in the romance genre. This wasn’t and I was a tad worried about that but Walsh brought an authentic air to Bonnie’s younger days. As I was reading the book, I actually went online several times to do my own research on Bonnie Parker to see how much creative freedom the author really took with the story. This certainly isn’t a factual book but hey, it’s fiction, and I liked the way Walsh filled in the gaps of what little tidbits are out there of the infamous Bonnie Parker’s early days.
I think my favorite part of this novel was Bonnie and her character arc. She starts off as sweet and innocent, nothing like how I always imagine her as part of the Bonnie and Clyde duo. Then you see that change from this innocence to something… not darker, but more akin to what you might expect from a Bonnie story. Becoming Bonnie definitely challenged some of my preconceptions about her, especially as it sparked an interest in examining her life further online.
Walsh also did a good job of bringing Bonnie’s inner turmoil to life. Her world is changing and whether it’s for the better or not remains to be seen. It was something I related to now, and something I could see teens relating to (this is marketed as an adult title but I think younger readers would also enjoy it and the content was not something I would consider inappropriate for teen readers).
One of my main issues with this book is the pacing. It’s a problem I tend to have with any sort of historical-based fiction as I want more action and less set-up, but that background development is necessary for the story to unfold to its fullest so its both a personal issue with the book but also not. I can see things picking up more in the sequel, now that Bonnie and Clyde have met.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with Becoming Bonnie as it’s not a book I would go for on the shelf (it’s simply not a genre I tend to lean toward). I can see readers of all ages enjoying it and this book definitely sparked a curiosity in me, a need to know more about Bonnie Parker and who she was as a person, not just her crimes. Looking forward to more from this author, and would definitely recommend this debut!