Morgan Rogers’s 2021 debut novel Honey Girl is an introspective look at relationships, careers, and mental health that is a must read for anyone who has gone through a second coming of age. Rogers’s main character Grace Porter is a 28-year-old PhD graduate and is a main character that any late twenties to thirties year old can relate to. Burnt out from a decade of academic work and frustrated with the prospects available to her (which are compounded with the fact that she is one of few Black and Queer women in her field) she takes off with her friends to Vegas for a weekend of fun. After getting blackout drunk she wakes to find herself married to a wife that left only a calling card for a radio show. That is only where Rogers’s story begins; what seems like a fun romantic comedy quickly turns into a compelling glance at what happens when life does not go as planned.
The novel analyzes many themes, including Queer love, friendship, race, and generational trauma, in a way that feels both authentic and engaging. Grace’s friendships are beautifully written and display the reality that many millennials are creating their own found families. Her relationship with her parents is painfully true to life as she struggles to connect with both her cold father and flighty mother. Grace’s career is also relatable for anyone who has relentlessly pursued something only to get hit with the uncomfortable reality that sometimes-hard work is not enough, and life is often not fair. As the novel goes on, it explores the mental repercussions of exhaustion and overwhelm as Grace struggles to rediscover herself in the midst of a career roadblock.
While there are many YA novels that focus on coming-of-age themes, Rogers proves that there is also a market for adult coming of age novels. The truth is most people don’t find themselves at 18 or even in their early twenties; for many it takes much longer, especially for those who choose to pursue their career or academic goals with the tenacity that Grace does. Some call it a quarter life crisis, others call it a second coming of age, but the reality is that this happens to a lot of people. That is why Rogers’s novel is so important. While Grace as a character is refreshingly unique a Black, Lesbian, biracial astronomer, her story arc is universal. As Grace’s life closes in on her, it becomes evident that her problems are those that many can relate to, such as structural racism, disconnected parents, love, and finding a work/life balance. Many people charge into adulthood full speed ahead only to wake up one day years later and wonder who they are, just like Grace does. Grace struggles to balance her friendships with finding herself, she struggles to connect with her parents who failed her in different ways, and she questions her past choices, both personal and professional. All of these are things many people struggle with during their late twenties/early thirties when you have lived long enough to have regrets yet not long enough to have it all figured out. Rogers balances the heavier themes of the novel with the romantic story arc of Grace’s relationship with her wife Yuki, a free-spirited radio host. As Grace runs away from her work and familial challenges in Portland, she finds herself in New York with Yuki and her roommates. As Grace navigates her crisis of herself and her new marriage, she finds life is a lot messier than she prepared for and that sometimes there can be beauty in the mess. If you are looking for a book that is a quick read with a lasting impact, read Morgan Rogers’s Honey Girl. You will not be disappointed.
Rogers's novel can be found on Good Reads here: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (goodreads.com)
Autumn Andersen is an editor for Penumbra Online and grad student at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about her favorite shows.