Her heart skips because this is it. She’s a Porter, and Porters were strong and fearless. But she is also Grace, and Grace is nervous and scared.
Published: February 2021
Representation: Black, Brown, and Asian People of Colour (POC); Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Gay (LGBT+); Polyamory; Mental Health; Interracial Couple
Content Warning: tumultuous/toxic parent-child relationships; racism; discussion and descriptions of self-harm; descriptions of anxiety, depression, and borderline personality; mentions of attempted suicide; discussions of parental death; recreational substance use (marijuana, alcohol); non-explicit sexual content; burnout; self doubt.
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.
— summary from Goodreads
We were originally drawn to this book based off the widespread comparison of it with Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston; Honey Girl was essentially likened to a lesbian couple’s RW&RB, and who wouldn’t pick that up? As lovers of diverse romances, it seemed like a done deal for us. These comparisons and the book’s marketing lead us to expect one thing from this book – but it delivered a whole other thing. A good thing, don’t get us wrong. Honey Girl is beautifully written: thoughtful, honest, tough, and endearing, wrapped up in a package leading to a whole lot of feelings for the reader. It picks up on hard-to-swallow truths about difficult relationships, loneliness, the human condition, and the expectations we place on ourselves. And while RW&RB is also honest and heartfelt, the two books have totally different tones and completely different stories. RW&RB is sweet and earnest, while Honey Girl is raw and emotional. In many ways, we have come to resent the comparison between the two books; and we want our readers to know that if this is the reason you’re picking up Honey Girl, don’t. If you need a reason to read it, we’ll give you loads of them. We loved this book: Honey Girl is an excellent novel that stands up on its own and doesn’t require leaning on other titles. But for some people, as it was for us, the claimed similarities of the two novels can lead to a triggering experience reading Honey Girl – and we would like to prevent that for you if we can.
This book is honestly beautiful; Rogers’ writing is the type that can give you full body chills. You can really understand what the main character, Grace, is going through, even if you’ve never experienced what she has. For that reason, Honey Girl is an emotional rollercoaster ride of a novel, and you really need to be in the right head space for it. It may be triggering for folks who are having a difficult time; we ourselves found Grace’s experiences to be painfully relatable, which makes for a powerful – if not totally devastating – read. We were extremely grateful for the distinct differences between ourselves and the characters; because if we were any more similar to them in our experiences, we may have lost our minds and broken down while reading!
“She tells Yuki she had a plan, a good plan, and when she got to the end, there was no trophy with her name etched on it. There was no welcoming committee thanking her for all that she had sacrificed to get there. There were no offers waiting for her. There was just Grace Porter with a piece of paper that says doctor and another that says married.”
Grace isn’t the only relatable character. Every single character featured in this book was devastating in their struggles. There is also so much representation in the book, it would be difficult for someone not to see themselves reflected in some way, which makes every hard truth that much more heartbreaking (and warming) to read.
As the content warning indicates, Grace goes through a personal journey that is raw and hard to cope with. She has a form of trauma from the way she was raised and the expectations placed on her from a young age that has resulted in her inability to cope with less than perfection. But as all of us know – we can’t be perfect, we’re human. And Grace has a really difficult time reconciling that. It’s a story that chronicles her personal and emotional growth, but also features self harm, severe anxiety, and depression. This book is raw and hard-hitting. It is way heavier than the originally comparison to RW&RB led us to believe. So take us at our word – this book is phenomenal. But it is not at all similar to RW&RB, and going into it believing that it is could be potentially harmful to your coping while reading this novel. If you are in the right place to read this book, please do! You will feel a lot, but you will not regret it.
This – being kind to herself, not trying to be perfect, not hurting herself in her quest to find the best and be the best – will always be work. It will take all that’s within her to unlearn that she does not have to grind her bones to dust, that needing to stop, needing to breathe, needing other people is not weak.