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Title: Honey Girl
Author: Morgan Rogers
Publisher: Park Row Books
Genre: Romance, contemporary
Release date: February 23, 2021
Synopsis: “A refreshingly timely and relatable debut novel about a young woman whose life plans fall apart when she meets her wife.
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”
Grace Porter has always had a plan: graduate with her PhD and get a good job. But on a trip to Vegas to celebrate her graduation, Grace does something that is definitely not in the plan: she drunkenly marries a woman she’s just met. Grace’s whole world is shaken up, and as she gravitates to her new wife, Yuki, she also finds herself questioning everything around her. As post-school life becomes more and more daunting, Grace decides to leave the West Coast and spend the summer with Yuki in New York. She finds solace in Yuki’s love but as the end of the summer looms closer, she’ll be forced to confront what’s next for her, and for them.
Honey Girl is a beautiful, tender love story meets coming-of-age. Grace is in her late 20s and after spending years in academia, she’s feeling burnt out, disenchanted, and is struggling to know what she wants. She’s an authentic character, and her feelings of being lost and unsure of her path will resonate with many readers. This novel also addresses the experiences of marginalized folks in academia. As a biracial Black lesbian, Grace has difficulty finding spaces where she feels safe and valued, and is often treated as being a problem-starter because of her identities. After years of school, she’s questioning whether there’s really a space for her in the world of astronomy. This is such a necessary and important conversation, and I loved seeing it incorporated into a new adult novel.
Honey Girl also explores themes of family. Grace has a strained, complex relationship with each of her parents: her mother is a free spirit who hasn’t always been there for her, while her father is a strict military dad who’s always pushed Grace to be perfect. Her father has pushed her to keep her head down, continue with school, be the best, and get the best job. The pressure is mounting, and Grace is struggling to breathe underneath it all. And more than that, she’s struggling to articulate how she feels and to ask for help. Honey Girl is very much about mental health and how expectations can feel suffocating.
One of my favorite things about this novel is the deep, meaningful, and intimate friendships that Grace has! Her two roommates, Ximena and Agnes, are a huge part of Grace’s support system, and I love the intimate friendship the three of them have together. Ximena and Agnes are also queer, and I think the relationship between the three women really reflects how valuable found family can be within the queer community. Grace also shares a familial bond with her coworkers at a tea shop, Meera and Raj; I particularly loved the brother-sister relationship between her and Raj.
This is definitely a character-driven story, and it centers primarily around Grace and Yuki. Grace is an incredibly relatable character dealing with anxieties and fears. She’s not sure what’s next for her, and she’s afraid to find out–I think she’s a character that so many readers, especially millennials, will see themselves in. Meanwhile, Yuki is very different from Grace. She knows exactly who she is, and she’s not afraid to ask for what she wants. While Grace’s passion is in the stars, Yuki’s is in stories: she loves myths of creatures and the paranormal. There is a certain whimsy embedded in their characters, which I loved.
The relationship between Grace and Yuki has so much love and beauty written into it. They begin their marriage as near-strangers who have a chance encounter in Las Vegas. They both leave Vegas with each other burrowed into their hearts and minds, and neither is able to forget the other. Yuki gives Grace the space to figure things out, and their relationship blossoms naturally. It’s a marriage that starts out on a whim, but grows into a multi-layered love story.
Honey Girl has an intersectionally diverse cast: Grace is a biracial Black lesbian, her wife Yuki is queer & Japanese-American, and there are a number of supporting characters who are queer & trans, Black, Asian, Latinx, and Indigenous. Honey Girl also has some valuable mental health rep: Agnes struggles with her mental health and it’s openly discussed throughout the book, and Grace struggles with her own anxiety.
Honey Girl is a love story, but it is definitely not a rom-com. Morgan’s writing is soft, poetic, and lyrical. It’s the kind of writing that is subtle, and seems to sneak up on you and flood you with its beauty before you even realize it’s happening. Honey Girl is a slower read that is character and relationship driven, so if you’re a reader who needs a fast-paced, plot-centric novel, this might not be the book for you. But if you love lyrical writing full of gorgeous imagery, and stories that delve deep into relationships and emotions, you’ll adore Honey Girl.
Thank you to NetGalley and Park Row Books for the digital review copy!