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Review: Becoming Bonnie

Jenni L. Walsh - Becoming Bonnie
Published: May 9, 2017 by Forge Books
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Retellings, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley
Find on: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

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.

Jenni Walsh tells the story of Bonnie and Clyde (and Roy) through the semi-realistic tale of Becoming Bonnie. However, Bonnie starts off as Bonnelyn, a churchgoing, newly-engaged, unexpected heroine, who encounters the dark-and-domineering, jailbird extraordinaire Clyde after being introduced by her good friend, Blanche. Keep in mind, this is fiction. Few details have been changed.

Still, I adored everything about this. Usually when authors delve into historical fiction, they have no clue how to maintain the art of the creative voice. (i.e. "I went to the juice joint with Blanche, then I went to TJ MAXX to buy a bag of trail mix and a pair of flip-flops, but then, I went back home to try on my new pinafore.) Walsh, however, stayed in character, the entire time. I was gratefully astounded.

Honestly, I had no clue Jenni Walsh had switched out the details of their real story, at that. I was fully convinced about Becoming Bonnie being the entirety of Bonnie's life-story. Personally, I feel like it would've ruined their story.

The only thing I may've not liked about this was Clyde's voice. This story makes him sound like such a romantic, ala Chuck Bass, and I never believed him to be that. Otherwise, every voice in this novel is painfully accurate, especially Bonnie's. She sounded so problematic and messy and downright idiotic, but overall, this had to have been the realest, real-life version of her. I was fond of the ending, simply because of the accuracy and the amount of details, but Bonnie may annoy the heck out of you.


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