I received this book for free from Netgalley, Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko
Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group on May 30, 2023
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Own Voices, Young Adult Fiction / Romance / LGBTQ
Source: Netgalley, Wednesday Books
Buy on Bookshop
Trailblazing pop star, actor and director, Hayley Kiyoko debuts her first novel, a coming-of-age romance based on her breakthrough hit song and viral video, GIRLS LIKE GIRLS.
It’s summertime and 17-year-old Coley has found herself alone, again. Forced to move to rural Oregon after just losing her mother, she is in no position to risk her already fragile heart. But when she meets Sonya, the attraction is immediate.
Coley worries she isn't worthy of love. Up until now, everyone she's loved has left her. And Sonya's never been with a girl before. What if she's too afraid to show up for Coley? What if by opening her heart, Coley's risking it all?
They both realize that when things are pushed down, and feelings are forced to shrivel away, Coley and Sonya will be the ones to shrink. It’s not until they accept the love they fear and deserve most, that suddenly the song makes sense.
Based on the billboard-charting smash hit song and viral music video GIRLS LIKE GIRLS, Hayley Kiyoko's debut novel is about embracing your truth and realizing we are all worthy of being loved back.
I definitely wish I had this book available when I was a teenager. It would have saved a lot of heartbreak and shame from realizing my own feelings and who I am. This book had so many emotions: hopeful, heartbreaking, joyous, and everything in between!
I was pleasantly surprised at how well Haley Kiyoko writes. Yes, she writes song lyrics, but that is different than writing an entire novel. I especially felt her writing was the strongest when she was writing about Coley’s grief over her mother’s death or Sonya’s feelings of shame in her LiveJournal posts. Kiyoko’s writing didn’t blow me out of the water, but it was an enjoyable and compelling story and an easy weekend (or summer) read.
How Kiyoko expands an entire story from a 5-minute music video to a whole book is quite impressive. I’m glad she included Sonya’s public and private LiveJournal blog posts because I wouldn’t have liked her character as much without them. I understand this takes place in 2006 in a small town in Oregon, but that’s not an excuse to be a shitty person; Sonya comes up to that line quite a lot in the book. It isn’t easy to come out, and you may want to pretend it’s not real. As someone who grew up in a small town and tried to do this, believe me, I get it. But I didn’t let that affect how I treated the people around me. Again, the insight into her blog posts helps mitigate any bad feelings the audience might experience about Sonya since we understand why she’s acting the way she is and her struggles with her feelings for Coley.
I was underwhelmed by how it ended. I kept swiping (reading it on my Kindle app) back and forth to ensure I got everything. How the last chapters ended was almost exactly how the music video ended. Two key differences were that Trenton’s actions made all the friends come out to the backyard, which made Coley leave, so the kiss happens in the next-door neighbor’s yard. For a music video, it makes sense to end it with the kiss and Coley riding off on her bike, but for a book, it feels like a letdown after all that build-up. I would’ve liked to see the last chapter be of their first day of school or high school graduation to see how everything worked out, plus to put any questions the readers have to rest. How will Sonya’s friends react (minus SJ cause I’m positive she’s already figured it out)? Is Sonya’s family going to disown her? What was the deal with Sonya and Faith? Even though it’s minor, the last question, in particular, is a big one for me. Sonya’s definitely an unreliable narrator with how she describes Faith compared to how she acts in the few scenes Faith’s present in, so it makes me think she had a crush on her but convinced herself it was jealousy and pushed it down. Yet, it’s never acknowledged or even hinted at. There were quite a few questions and concerns to answer or comment on, as Sonya’s fears weren’t resolved.
Actually, typing this up is starting to make me rethink my star rating, but I won’t change it because the writing and characters make up for the ending. Plus, I don’t know if Kiyoko has any plans to revisit these characters down the road (I wouldn’t mind if she did).