From singing to acting and directing, the multi-talented Hayley Kiyoko has explored various forms of creative work. She is known by fans as “Lesbian Jesus” for her music that explores her sexuality as a gay woman and that normalizes LGBTQIA+ experiences. She is now slated to release her debut novel, “Girls Like Girls,” this May. The book, which is based on her viral music video of the same name, expands on the video’s titular characters, telling the story of Coley and Sonya, two high schoolers who are trying to find the confidence to love themselves and one another. Giving fans a closer look at characters who they are already familiar with from the music video builds upon their relationship with Coley and Sonya. However, it’s not necessary to have knowledge of the music video to enjoy the book, as its a full-fledged story on its own. The book dives into the ups and downs of teenage life through the eyes of young queer women.
Coley has a lot to deal with. After her mother’s unfortunate passing, Coley moves in to live with her estranged father and has to adapt to life in a small country town. Avoiding unpacking and spending time with her dad, Coley bikes out to the mall one hot day, only to come close to death as a car nearly runs her over. As a shameless teenage boy, Trenton, comes out of the car and tries to blame her for getting in his way, Coley is instead entranced by the voice of one of the car’s passengers, asking if she’s okay. This is the first introduction we have to Sonya, the girl who has a stronger impact on Coley’s life than her near death experience. From the get-go, Coley is intrigued by Sonya, yet she is deterred by her attitude and her friend group, which consists of Trenton, Alex, SJ, and Brooke. Despite seeing Sonya as a spoiled rich girl, Coley can’t seem to walk away. But when she is allowed glimpses into the real Sonya, Coley can’t help but fall for her even more, without even realizing what’s happening.
“Girls Like Girls” offers readers an authentic portrayal of the challenges queer teenagers face when they struggle to find acceptance from those around them, and even themselves. Kiyoko effectively shows the troubled mindsets of the two girls through Coley’s inner thoughts and Sonya’s private journal entries. The contrast between the turmoil within Sonya’s diary and her efforts to appear perfect and fine on the outside evokes empathy from the reader. While Coley is biracial, the novel does not zero in on her ethnicity, only offering small pieces of information on her background. This itself is a refreshing way to provide representation for queer Asian and biracial individuals in a normalized manner. Serving as a strong debut novel, “Girls Like Girls” is an addition to Kiyoko’s impressive body of work.