Last month, Morgan Rogers published their stunning debut novel Honey Girl, an adult fiction book that will no doubt stand the test of time. Honey Girl follows 28-year-old Grace Porter, who’s just earned her PhD in Astronomy. When she and her two best friends take a trip to Vegas to celebrate, Grace drunkenly marries a woman she’s never met. After returning home, Grace soon realizes her grand life plan may not be what she truly wants. As everything begins to overwhelm her, Grace decides to leave her home in Portland and head to New York, where she begins to fall for Yuki, her wife. Soon, though, Grace must face the reality she tried to escape.
From the get-go, Rogers draws readers in with their lyrical and mesmerizing writing style. The way they describe their characters allows readers to visualize in a vivid way what Grace and her friends look like, bringing readers deeper into the story. Their general descriptions via Grace’s thoughts early on sets the tone for the entire novel. Rogers’ writing creates a swirl of emotions ranging from joy to sadness to everything in between that meshes gracefully from page to page.
Rogers explores a variety of topics, all of them interconnected in some way. First and foremost is the exploration of work culture and how Grace’s expectations of herself tie into that. Like most of us beyond the pages of Honey Girl, we’re primed to grow up with the idea that we must go to school, get at least a bachelor’s degree, and find a job. And Grace, while a fictional character, faces that same expected life plan. Her journey to find her place in her field presents a certain hopelessness that’s not quite negative, but rather offers a necessary commentary on reality. Many of Grace’s doubts and triumphs regarding her academics and career search jump off the page and hits hard, making Grace’s journey all the more immersive.
Rogers also places an emphasis on the connection to the universe, in a way that will make readers stop and ponder some of the very same questions Grace raises, especially as she deals with loneliness versus being alone. Throughout the book, Grace, partially through Yuki, begins to ponder her life as a lonely creature and how she and Yuki were drawn together. She also relates this to her close network of friends, who are wholly supportive and loving towards Grace but still don’t quell her loneliness. Along the same vein, Rogers writes Grace being alone in a space. This highlights the distinction between loneliness and being alone, even if they’re often close in meaning.
For me, one of the most important aspects about any book is creating a compelling group of characters, and that’s exactly what Rogers does. Early on, they establish brief histories of the main players of the story and the relationships they have with each other. Readers will find themselves falling for Grace and her best friends and roommates Ximena and Agnes from the first couple chapters. Though Honey Girl is a debut novel, Rogers writes the trio with a clear expertise and through an empathic lens that bolsters their journeys. Similarly, other characters such as Meera, Raj, Colonel (Grace’s father), and Yuki and her roommates each bring their own distinct personalities to the table. What stands out particularly for me is the widespread rep Rogers includes with each of these characters, whether it be through a cultural background, queerness, or other specific life experiences. Rogers presents a clear understanding of their characters and of their readers.
Rogers crafts a genuine, emotional, and delightful story with Honey Girl. They bring an intensely relatable character with not only Grace, but everyone who orbits Grace’s life, from Ximena and Agnes to Yuki to Colonel. There’s not a single character in this book readers won’t be able to find part of themselves in. Rogers brings a special sort of validation to all those struggling with what they want to do with their lives. Whether they find themselves attempting many things or hanging on to a singular focus like Grace, Rogers invites readers into a story that tells them it it’s okay to not know. More importantly, Rogers provides a beautiful validation to Black queer girls and women, and Black queer folx in general, offering an obvious and deep understanding of the struggles that come with both identities and the immense power held within them. And whether readers identify specifically with that or not, this is a book that absolutely needs to be at the top of every read list.
Honey Girl is available now online and in stores.