Beautiful writing and an MC I loved from the beginning
First, there was a video and a song. Now there’s a book. I’ll be honest (when am I not?), I requested this book because I was curious: if a story fits in a five-minute video, is there enough for a entire novel? Turns out that yes, there is.
Coley is seventeen when, after her mom dies, she moves from San Diego to Oregon, where there are more trees than people, to live with the father she hasn’t seen since she was three. A week later, she’s almost run over by an obnoxious boy but what really changes her life is meeting one of the girls riding with him.
Hayley Kiyoko can write. I know it’s not news, yet writing songs and directing videos isn’t the same as writing a whole-ass novel and trust me, she can. The verb tense consistency is a bit wonky but I read an uncorrected review copy, so that may have been fixed in the final version. And even if it wasn’t, I forgot about it in favour of beautiful, poetic paragraphs and a main character I loved from the beginning.
Speaking of which, I wonder who the target audience is. Wednesday Books specializes in YA, for older teens, at the border with NA. And I wonder if these readers are interested in a story set in 2006. To me, Girls Like Girls feels like a book written for adults who enjoy reading YA, whether it’s for the nostalgia it brings them of their teenage years (or what those years could have been) or other reasons. Let me tell you, though, I got furious at Sonya about two-thirds in, so I guess I’m the target audience? Anyway, I’m reviewing the book, not who it’s marketed to, and I fully recommend it.
The relationship between Coley and her father is handled very well: Coley’s anger and frustration, Curtis’s efforts… Kiyoko doesn’t overdo the drama, and writes the evolution, the growth, the earning of trust and appreciation in a way that feels organic. I loved many things in this book but if I had to single out one, I think this would be it.
Despite the story tackling several heavy topics – including the suicide of a parent –, the most challenging part to read, for me, was Sonya’s fears and self-hatred and how they led her to behave. I wasn’t sure how the author would make it work, some things are almost impossible to forgive.
The ending is rushed but sweet. The other point I felt Kiyoko could have gone a bit further into is Coley being half-white half-Asian. It’s mentioned twice, once at the beginning when she feels never white enough, never Asian enough (and yes, I see the irony of commenting on this specific point), and a second time near the end, in a way that makes perfect sense and left me wanting more. Other than that, I loved everything, the characters, the teenage angst, the very real pain and fears, the love. And above all, the writing, which makes Girls Like Girls a very easy book to read despite not being all light and fluff. 4 stars.