One of my favorite things about reviewing is reading an ARC and having the feeling of the book being so good that you want to tell everyone. And then being really annoying the months leading up to the release. Then the satisfaction of having other readers validate how much they loved the book when they are finally able to read it. This is the long way of me telling you that I am trying very hard to add some books with farther out release dates to my reading. Sorry to my already massive TBR but that feeling is too good for me to not try to have it again.
I dipped my toe into my 2021 pile and I have one that I absolutely loved and one that was a miss for me.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (2/23/2021)- This is Rogers’ debut and it is FANTASTIC. If I were to print my highlighted sections, I would have 6 pages of highlights. It is at times hard to read
CW: Mental illness (main & secondary character, mentions of self harm (skin picking/scratching), codependency, strict military dad, troubled parental relationships
Honey Girl is not a romance, but it does have romantic elements. Grace, our main protagonist is a Sad Girl ™. The book opens up with her hazy reflections of getting drunkenly married the night before. The person she married is unknown to her but did leave some clues behind. Grace is trying to figure out her next steps in life as well as decide what to do about her wife.
What happened in Vegas is tucked away in her suitcase. It is under her shirt in the shape of a key. It is hidden in her hair with the last little bits of dried petals. It hides in the gold ring wrapped around her finger like a brand.
This is really a book about friendship and acceptance and overcoming hurts. Grace is surrounded by an amazing group of found family. I wanted every single one of them to be my friend. They accepted each other exactly as they are. They love each other deeply and unconditionally. At times it is a little codependent but also very relatable. This is something that Rogers tells us about Grace’s circle.
This is the thing: for as lonely and solitary as Grace feels, she is not alone. She has Raj and Meera. She has Agnes. To the very marrow of her, down to the studs, she has Ximena. Raj and Meera are her family, not blood, but flesh and spirit and heart. Agnes is her best friend. Ximena is who she will grab onto when the world ends, and they will watch it burn to ash before they follow. They are two Black girls with their backs against the wall, and on the very good days, Grace likes their odds.
“You good?” Ximena asks, and Grace nods. “Positive? You don’t have to be good yet.” She taps a finger four times against Grace’s pulse. Love. you. so. much. Love you so much it hurts.
Grace is LONELY although she is not alone. Her journey to discovering this is beautiful and very sad. Grace learns there is a lot she must deal with in order to move on.
Here is the thing about the tar, the sludge, the inky black poison. Once it starts its ascent out of your body, there is nothing you can do to stop it. It tastes like volcano ash and fire, and you must taste it, and gag on it, and ultimately, you must spit it out. There comes a time when you cannot swallow it down any longer. Everything that is buried will be unburied. Everything that is pushed down will find its way out. It is the way of the universe.
Please consider putting this on your TBR for 2021. If you like Sad Girl books (Beach Read, 99 Percent Mine) I think you would like this. Or if you really liked reading about Samiah’s job in The Boyfriend Project, I think you might like this. I think that readers who are looking for a book that does not center a character around whiteness would enjoy this book.
In summary- Rogers debut is fantastic. It made me cry more than once. I wanted to hug Grace. I wanted Ximena to hug me and tap out a message to me. I can not wait for more people to read this so we can talk about it.
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon. The cover for this is cute as heck and the premise seemed right up my alley. Almost from the beginning I could tell it wasn’t going to be for me. It didn’t hook me right away. I kept trying though. I think what finally cemented it is when Shay, the FMC, confirmed that the MMC, Dominic is 24. And sometimes I can age characters up. But Shay mentioned it too many times for me to not pay attention to it.
Also, it made me a little uncomfortable that Dominic is Asian American and the author doesn’t share this identity. The book is told only from Shay’s perspective (at least in the 20ish percent that I read) and I have complicated & complex feelings about white authors writing characters of color. Maybe in the later parts of the book this addressed really well and I just didn’t get far enough to see.