Hi everyone, I hope you’re well! Today I’m here with a review for a book that I, sadly, just found to be a letdown!
Title: The Key to You and Me
Author: Jaye Robin Brown
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: Piper Kitts is spending the summer living with her grandmother, training at the barn of a former Olympic horseback rider, and trying to get over her ex-girlfriend. Much to Piper’s dismay, her grandmother is making her face her fear of driving head-on by taking lessons from a girl in town.
Kat Pearson has always suspected that she likes girls but fears her North Carolina town is too small to color outside the lines. But when Piper’s grandmother hires Kat to give her driving lessons, everything changes.
Piper’s not sure if she’s ready to let go of her ex. Kat’s navigating uncharted territory with her new crush. With the summer running out, will they be able to unlock a future together?
This was my first book by Jaye Robin Brown and I was really excited to read it as one of her other books, Georgia, Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, is one of the classics of sapphic YA literature, but sadly I was let down. The Key to You and Me follows Piper and Kat. Piper is moving across the country to stay with her grandmother over the summer so that she can train with an ex-Olympian horse rider and get over her ex-girlfriend. There she meets Kat who is questioning her sexuality in a small town in North Carolina where everyone knows everyone – that is until she meets Piper and offers to give her driving lessons, and a burgeoning crush starts forming.
When I started the book, admittedly, I was enjoying it and it was a fun contemporary novel that I could listen to as an audiobook in the background while I was crocheting. But I quickly got rather frustrated with the characters and their annoying dynamics! Or rather, let me narrow it down a bit – I got very frustrated with Piper. At the start of the book we find out that Piper has just broken up with her ex, Judith, and is trying her best to get over her. So, we see her going out and taking tonnes of Instagram photos to try and prove that she can have fun with her…and then things went downhill. Right at the start of the book, you can see that there is a kind of spark between Kat and Piper, and the fake dating trope is even implied here too – Piper wants it to look like she’s dating, or at the very least into, Kat so as to make Judith jealous. And I couldn’t help but feel like Piper was leading Kat on throughout the whole book. Kat was trying to figure out her sexuality and was dealing with these new, romantic feelings for Piper – and she was very obvious with it, whether on purpose or not – but then Piper just constantly went on about wanting to get back with Judith or even being pretty demeaning towards Kat, and I really felt sorry for her. There’s a bit later in the book where Kat decides to almost give up on Piper and have fun with other girls, and it’s only then that Piper is like – actually, wait, I do like her, and it just felt super disingenuous and toxic. But maybe that’s just my view on it after reading two sapphic books back to back where the main character and the love interest just weren’t good together at all! Regarding Kat’s other relationship/fling/whatever with another girl, it was an age-gap thing and it made me really uncomfortable. Kat pretends to be 21 and in college in order to get this girl’s attention, even though she’s only 18 and in high school. And even at that, I don’t think her age is mentioned at all prior to this part of the book, just that she’s in high school. The only time she reveals her real age is after getting off with this girl outside a karaoke venue! It just didn’t sit right with me at all.
Aside from that, the plot was so dry. I was promised sapphic horse girls and I barely even got that. I know very little about horse riding, but I really just wanted to get a feel for the sport and how much Piper enjoyed it, but all she seemed to do was moan about having to clean out the stalls. As for Kat…did she have a personality other than having a younger sister and teaching Piper how to drive? Because it certainly didn’t seem like she did!
Finally, there were a few instances of cisexism throughout the book that also didn’t sit right with me, like how Kat’s younger sister exclaimed that she liked dick in lieu of simply saying that she’s straight. There were also jokes made about lesbians looking at other girls in changing rooms and it just was not okay.
Maybe this book would be enjoyable for younger teens just getting into YA contemporary, but for me it was a huge let-down. I think I will give Jaye’s other books a try in the future but they’re definitely not at the top of my priority list!