A needlessly long review of a 3 star book: Honey Girl

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

From Goodreads

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I have a lot of thoughts on this book. 

We can start with what I liked. This book was pretty well-written. The sentences flowed nicely, the structure was good, and it was super easy to read. I also liked the overall theme, which is more of a coming-of-age story than a love story (more on that soon). It was really well done without being too heavy-handed or overt. I thought Grace’s struggles were super realistic and relatable, and I really appreciated it.

I also really liked the ending. I liked Grace’s relationship with her mom, and how realistic and complex it felt (one of the only ones that felt like that in the book, more on that soon). I liked her relationship with her stepdad. I liked how her issues with her father were resolved, in that they weren’t 100% resolved but they were on their way. I liked that we saw Grace deciding to give therapy a try, and we got to see her attempts to find a therapist that worked. The last three-ish chapters were definitely my favourites in this book.

However, I had quite a few issues with this book. My first is with the marketing, which isn’t necessarily the book’s fault but is still related. This is very much marketed as a love story, about Grace who goes to Vegas, gets married, and decides to make this weird marriage work. That’s what the blurb is entirely about. However, as I mentioned, it’s a coming-of-age story for Grace. She’s struggling a lot with her identity and career and what she wants to do in life. The romance is a way for her to escape those struggles, rather than the central point. This is fine, but I was expecting a romance. It’s just odd expecting a fluffy, light romance, and instead getting a pretty heavy coming-of-age story.

My biggest issue is that so much of this book felt unnatural, forced, and idealized. One Goodreads reviewer, Bri, said it best: “My biggest issue with Honey Girl is that it doesn’t feel authentic AT ALL. Rogers relies far too heavily on corny imagery and dreamy diversity aesthetics in her writing rather than exploring relationships and conflict between the characters.”

Let’s talk about the characters first. While all the characters were great, distinct people, they didn’t feel like real people. They didn’t talk like real people talk, the relationships seemed very romanticized and perfect and unrealistic, and most of the people didn’t feel like real people. Even some of the dates and outings the characters do together felt really forced and odd. Maybe I just have weak friendships, but even so, the friendships in this book seemed super idealized. And I have a ton of great, close friends I would consider my family. I know everyone is different and has different relationships, etc., but that doesn’t change the fact that these people didn’t feel like real people.

I would have accepted a couple incredibly close, family-feeling relationships, but having literally every single person in this book be someone’s found family just felt like a lot. Each relationship would have been fine on its own. There are essentially five main relationships/group of relationships Grace has: her family, her two best friends, her work family, her wife, Yuki, and Yuki’s roommates. Grace’s relationships with her parents felt super real and relatable (these dynamics were definitely the best, most relatable and believable, and I honestly have nothing to complain about regarding her relationship with her parents). Her relationship with her work family was really great as well. Her relationship with her two best friends was really heartwarming and, while a little far-fetched, it was fun to read about. Her relationship with her wife’s roommates was super sweet (more on her relationship with her wife later). So had there been one or two of these dynamics, I would’ve accepted it and been fine with it. But having all of them felt unrealistic. I just wanted Grace to have a normal friendship with someone, without them being her long lost brother.

I also wanted to briefly talk about what Bri calls the “dreamy diversity aesthetics”. And I want to say upfront that I am a cis white person, and I am trying really hard to have this not come across as me complaining about diversity but rather critiquing how the diversity was handled in this book. It was yet another thing that felt forced and unnatural in the context of this book. Grace is Black with a white mom, the love interest is Japanese, one best friends is Mexican, another is Very Mentally Ill, Grace’s other found family is Indian, Yuki’s roommates are Black, and trans, and Philippino, and Indigenous. While obviously all these people exist in real life and could be friends in real life (especially as this book takes place in Oregon and New York), in the context of this already unnatural-feeling, forced book, this amount of diversity felt like just another forced aspect. Diversity is great and amazing, and not every person of colour in a book needs to be Perfectly Represented. But there is something to be said about representation for the sake of representation, and not giving the characters time to breathe. I want to make very clear again that I would not be making this critique had the book not felt so forced and unnatural already. Characters can just be trans or disabled or Indigenous without it needing to be A Thing, and that is something I love in books. But when I already felt like the relationships and characters and dialogue were forced and unnatural, I couldn’t help feeling that way about the diversity as well.

Okay, last thing is the romance. I,,,, didn’t like it. I didn’t like Grace and Yuki’s relationship. Parts of it were super realistic: it wasn’t like they were soul mates who never argued, and it wasn’t this saccharine sweet relationship right off the bat, which I appreciated. But, the way they spoke sounded super unnatural and stilted (once again). And I still want some swooning with my fictional relationships, y’know?

I also just overall wanted more. The book starts with Grace and Yuki being married, but they don’t really interact until a quarter of the way through the book. And they don’t meet up until past halfway through the book. From the marketing of the book, I was expecting like 80% of the book to be about Yuki and Grace’s relationship, and them figuring their shit out at the same time. Instead, it’s almost exclusively about Grace’s identity and life crises. Which is fine, but not what I was expecting or signed up for. So for a book that was heavily marketed/represented as a romance, the romance really fell flat for me.

Ultimately, this book had a lot of potential. Though it felt very forced and unnatural, and I know it seems like I just spent a lot of time shitting on this book, I did enjoy reading it. It was a fun and enjoyable read, even if I did have my issues with it. I can also see why someone would love this book. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean that it won’t work for someone else, or that I thought it was a bad book.

But those are just my thoughts! Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Any agreements or disagreements? Please let me know!

Thanks for reading! xx

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5 thoughts on “A needlessly long review of a 3 star book: Honey Girl

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