Honey Girl (2021)

Cover of Morgan Rogers' novel, Honey Girl, which features a cartoon of a black woman with honey-gold hair, large earrings, and black lipstick.

Author: Morgan Rogers

Content Warnings: Self-harm

Genre: New Adult Sapphic Romance

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 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.

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.

Book Blurb

RATING out of 10 violets, with 1 being the least and 10 being the most pain

6/10 self-critical violets.

Ten violets, six purple and four gray.

This review contains spoilers.

I’ll start this review by saying that the pain inflicted by Honey Girl is not related to the queer experience. Rather, it is a uniquely millennial and a uniquely POC pain that Morgan Rogers articulates in her debut novel. Recent astronomy PhD graduate Grace Porter’s parents are chronically cool and unwilling to accept any weakness–emotional, spiritual, intellectual–in their daughter. The pressure of being not only a woman but a black woman in the very white, very male STEM field has brought Grace to the brink of self-annihilation. Grace’s path to self-discovery through grad school and into a less-than-inviting job market is an important story, especially as it pertains to millennials’ inability to secure self-actualizing and meaningful employment and affording to live in the twenty-first century in any place other than one’s parents’ house. If you’re not a millennial–or a graduate student for that matter–you probably won’t find this book as painful as I found it for these reasons alone. I am not a POC, but I imagine that this particular conversation holds its own weight in the pain department as well.

The biggest issue I had with this book was its sickeningly-sweet descriptions of the relationship that blossoms between Grace and her now-wife Yuki Yamamoto. I didn’t buy into this idea that Grace marries a total stranger in Las Vegas, who then becomes this long-distance love affair where both women are just so head-over-heels for each other that they decide to spend an entire summer together after their one (1) spectacular night in Vegas. They are near perfect strangers, yet they so willingly decide to get together and to be so “perfect” at nearly every turn. I found myself rolling my eyes more often than not at this rosy look at love and fate. I don’t care how sexy and mysterious Yuki is. I wasn’t persuaded by the note that Yuki leaves to her “honey girl” on the bedside table the night after their wedding. I wasn’t won over by Yuki’s radio show, which she broadcasted across the country to a whole audience of people, yet seemingly only to Grace. You mean to tell me she has a whole radio show that she’s allowed to throw just because she wants to woo the woman she married in Vegas–and she’s hoping that Grace got the clue she left in her “honey girl” note to look up her radio show in the first place? She’s still a stranger, no matter how you look at it. This separation between the idea Grace has of Yuki and her actual interaction with Yuki should’ve been greater. I didn’t buy that Yuki was just as magical and mysterious and sexy as she portrayed herself to be on that radio show. Why is there no disappointment with this wild lore of love Grace has dreamt up in her head? Why is everything so perfect? Marriage license and real-life consequences aside, I didn’t see the need for these two strangers to try to make a life with each other as quickly as they tried to make it (and I mean quick, even by lesbian U-Hauling standards).

Yes, I’m cynical. Yes, I like pain with my pleasure. But even the most positive, romantic person would have a problem with the way that this romance pans out. They are near perfect strangers. How does everything fall into place so quickly? I get that Grace Porter has a PhD in astronomy and understands what’s “written in the stars” for her, but the metaphor isn’t deep enough, nor does it ring true. I found myself scrunching my nose the entire time I read this novel, which is a shame because I wanted so much to like this story about this floundering doctoral grad, whose experiences in academia mirror my own to a certain extent.

I’m all for Sapphic romances that end happily and are sweet through and through, but this one was just too sweet. Maybe you’ll have a different opinion on the romance, but I just didn’t buy it.


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