I am so grateful to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read these three books. Stars Collide by Rachel Lacey was such a perfect book to listen to on my drive back from Nashville after seeing Taylor Swift live for the first time in entirely too long. (Okay, since Reputation but that’s been AGES.) And Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko was such an emotional read that made me cry way too much. And then finally, I unfortunately DNF’d The Problem with Perfect but I think there’s a chance I’ll return to it one day! So let’s get into the actual reviews, shall we?
Stars Collide by Rachel Lacey
I am not sure if Ms. Rachel Lacey meant for me to play a game finding Taylor Swift references in her book, but I will be honest, I did do that. And I’m not sure if they were intentional, but listening to this book on my way back from Nashville after seeing Taylor live twice was a truly optimal reading experience. Other things you should know about me and my reading tastes is that I frequently love books about music, especially if they talk about song-writing. Why? No clue. But I absolutely love it. And this book has that! So now that you know that I was truly pre-disposed to like this book, let me tell you all the reasons why you also will like this book.
For one thing, these two characters are absolutely fascinating. Eden is a bit buttoned up (okay, maybe a lot buttoned up) and she’s really struggling creatively and feels like she’s sort of clinging to the edge of her fame, trying to hold on because she knows she’s not done yet. Anna is new to the scene and is exuberant and lively. She’s not been really jaded yet from fame. Anna is also out and proud (pansexual), whereas Eden has always just assumed she is straight. This book does a really great job (in my opinion) taking what could have gone “gay for you” and instead doing a superb job of making Eden’s coming out a slow and gradual thing where she realizes, “oh, I’m actually a _____” (I won’t spoil her label for you, but obviously she’s sapphic in some way.) I really liked the way Lacey handled this whole aspect of the plot. Anna is also recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship with a woman in the industry who is/was older than Anna and was in a mentor like relationship with her, which puts some obstacles in place in her relationship with Eden as things go along.
Another thing to love about this book is all of the side characters who feel like real people. This book manages to have a large cast of characters and to feel really insular and focused on Anna and Eden together. This book actually balances a lot of things in a really brilliant way, in my opinion. I also liked that this was a celebrity romance with two celebrities who are at different levels of fame, but also each contribute something overall to their professional relationships that both women need. I actually really liked basically everything about their relationship. What holds me back from a five star rating is that while I loved how the conflict was resolved, I did not really love or appreciate the conflict. It didn’t feel quite fleshed out enough for me. But that feels like a really minor quibble in light of how much I enjoyed everything else about the book!
Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko
To begin, let me just say that I had not watched the Girls Like Girls music video until about halfway through this book when I decided I had to see it immediately. I will say that if you were already a fan of the music video then I think that you’re going to like this book a whole lot because it takes that general concept and it expands it, but the beats it hits are the same. There’s just a level of emotional devastation in the book that you don’t necessarily get in the same way in the music video because you don’t know any prior trauma either girl may have.
In the book version, Coley has moved to Oregon to live with her dad who she hadn’t seen since she was like, three or something, because her mom died by suicide. Coley is… not dealing with things particularly well, though still far better than I would be in her shoes. Anyway, she winds up almost getting ran over by this douche bag and his ex-girlfriend, Sonya, and her summer starts going in a bit of a different direction. There’s a pretty immediate connection between Sonya and Coley, but it’s interesting because Sonya is very much the “cool girl” and the most popular girl so Coley pushing back and challenging her is new. As for what Sonya’s dealing with, basically it’s her mom being awful.
There’s a lot of drug and alcohol use for kids in high school. But what really struck me the most about this book is how perfectly it captures 2006, but also holy cow, so much has changed since 2006?? It almost makes this book feel like historical fiction. I’m so curious how young adults who read this book are going to feel about it because it’s truly so different. Do you remember AIM away messages? And the way we would all make those messages so targeted at one person… Ah, the nostalgia. Anyways, this book deals a lot with homophobia and it’s so interesting because wow, the flashbacks. I don’t want to spoil anything, but also, if you want the general vibe, just go watch the music video.
All in all, I would recommend this book, but only if you’re okay to be emotionally destroyed. Also, Kiyoko has an interesting writing style that felt very different to most of what I read, so I would recommend trying a sample to make sure you’ll get along with the writing. And if you’re looking at this book for a young person in your life, I would recommend getting one for you too so you can talk about all the 2006 references with them and how, for love of all that is good and holy, gay is not an insult. You know? Because we just really don’t need to go back to that time. We really, really don’t.
The Problem with Perfect
by Phillip William Stover
On the one hand, I really want to say this is a me problem and not the book problem. And to an extent, that’s likely true. But at the same time, I really struggle with Ethan as our main character who is so focused on vilifying Chase in his inner monologue without ever seeming to accept responsibility for the part that he played too. Ethan chose Chase and decided that Chase would be the perfect person for him to mold into being his spokesperson for all of Ethan’s ideas. When Chase goes away on a vacation, Ethan redecorates his apartment without seeming to ask Chase for input at all. But Ethan repeatedly gets frustrated with Chase for not thanking him, for not acknowledging all the work that Ethan does for him. Which is fair! Except… it’s also grating. I’m not saying that having a character who makes their own problems and gets in their own way can’t be interesting to read about, but it is not a read that I’m willing to put the time and effort into today.
That said, the messaging at the start of this book, being really critical of branding and sponsorships was pretty satisfying and I did appreciate that. Also, I already love Uncle Clams. Unfortunately, neither of those things are quite enough for me to stick it out any further.
How do you decide when to DNF? I struggle with it so much, but today I’m in a mood where I’m just not invested in pushing through when I’m not enjoying something. Also, have you read any of these? Are you excited to get to any of them? Let me know!