Never giving too much away, Literal Hotties focuses on reviews and recommendations of titles by womxn of colour, both fiction and non-fiction.
“Summer in a big metropolitan city makes you feel the sexiest and youngest you have ever been, and Granados conveys this feeling perfectly throughout the book.”
There’s something particularly alluring about characters in books who just spend hot, humid summers being sexy and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Pretty people doing nothing is a niche that I am not fed enough, but love completely. Marlowe Granados’ HAPPY HOUR is the gold standard – for me – of this. Granados exquisitely captures so much of young, twenty-something life.
Truly, this book couldn’t have come at a better time. Outside is opening up, London summer has begun, and Love Island is back in our lives. Pair this with the fact that I am consistently booking brunches, and debuting all my new summer outfits, I basically feel like I’m cosplaying the characters of the book. Summer is HERE, hotties, I hope you’re all living your best hot lives.
HAPPY HOUR introduces us to Isa, an ethnically ambiguous brown girl – though it is occasionally hinted at that she is Latinx – moving to Manhattan, New York for the summer. With absolutely zero dollars to her name, and technically not being in the country legally, she and her Russian bestfriend Gala work cash in hand jobs wherever they can find them, in order to pay for the room that is being subletted to them by a forgettable white girl, happily playing her part in the gentrification of Brooklyn.
The entire book is told from the perspective of Isa; or more specifically, her diary, documenting various months of the summer as she and Gala try to make ends meet whilst simultaneously enjoying the nightlife of New York and social climbing. Honestly, love that for them. Won’t pretend I didn’t walk away from this book thinking about how I could utilise some of their methods for myself.
“In the eyes of New York’s elite, Isa and Gala appear naturally perplexing, attractive and fascinating, the way that they have most likely tried hard to be their entire lives.”
The origins and personal histories of Isa and Gala are intentionally ambiguous. It’s even indicated that they may not even be their real names. It’s an intentional choice, as both girls love to be perceived, and to be seen as enticing and interesting. Same, babes.
It creates an allure when they meet others – often people who are born from generational wealth – who seek the mystery and the spontaneity that Isa and Gala provide. In the eyes of New York’s elite, Isa and Gala appear naturally perplexing, attractive and fascinating, the way that they have most likely tried hard to be their entire lives.
The duo offer no deeper meaning as to why they’re in New York. They are there to exist, to enjoy the perfect experience of spending a summer in a notorious city. It’s understandable; as a native Londoner, the best time to be in London has always been in the summer. The energy is different, the good vibes are palpable.
“These girls have absolutely zero intention of ever paying for a night out, and there is no timidness or embarrassment to this fact. I fuck with it.”
There’s an optimism that comes naturally when the sun is shining. Despite the stickiness and heat of the underground, it’s the only time we’re not annoying, miserable fucks who want to throw ourselves in the Thames. It’s the only time we step outside, smelling the humid and polluted air, and feel alive. Summer in a big metropolitan city makes you feel the sexiest and youngest you have ever been, and Granados conveys this feeling perfectly throughout the book.
These girls have absolutely zero intention of ever paying for a night out, and there is no timidness or embarrassment to this fact. I fuck with it. Their sole intention is to enjoy the fruits of New York without having to delve into their own pockets, and it is an entitlement they have earned.
It is clear from the opening chapters that Isa and Gala are not born into wealth, in fact their parents are never spoken of, but the ways in which they consistently find quick and easy work to make rent is practiced and precise; a routine that has been perfected over years, and exhibits a resilience that is evidently learned from a young age. They scrape the line of homelessness and starvation, always pulling their funds together just enough to make it for the month.
So when they find a sucker to pay for their cocktails and club entries, I will not say a word. Besides, pretty people suffering feels like a sin to me.
“It’s understandable to see how they charm rich white boys and girls enough to be invited to their parties; as if it’s a twisted show and tell for the children of Republican senators to prove they aren’t racist or classist.”
Granados is particularly good at emphasising how small social circles actually are amongst New York’s elite. Isa likes to collect stories from the people she meets, in order to make her feel like she’s learning something. It means that every person she knows is useful to her. They provide a benefit that someone of her economic status must always keep in her arsenal because, as mentioned, she is always just one step away from having no home.
The duo have perfected a routine for every introduction they make; their confidence and natural charm never makes their script feel inappropriate or out of place. They are an odd pair, but one the works well in tandem with each other.
As a reader, I was compelled by the magnetism of their personalities, and it’s understandable to see how they charm rich white boys and girls enough to be invited to their parties; as if it’s a twisted show and tell for the children of Republican senators to prove they aren’t racist or classist. Often, it can seem as if they desperately want to yell “look, I can make friends with interesting brown and poor people!”
Isa and Gala exploit this, cue the ‘good for her’ meme.
“No one person is the same in Happy Hour, and it seems to capture the electricity of New York in a way that feels so incredibly real.”
Isa recounts wild and unpredictable nights that take them from the Upper East Side to the Hamptons, or to a party in Brooklyn where artists and hipsters cosplay being poor. The night’s events are never expected, and are constantly a cause for excitement for the reader. I vividly remember wanting to scream when Isa cruelly ended a diary entry just as a rich movie star – who was exceptionally attractive and fascinating – was about to confess some of his darkest secrets to Isa. I’ve never wanted to dog walk a character so aggressively before.
But it’s genius! It creates an air of authenticity to the work. It’s moments like this that emphasise how real a character can become to you. No one person is the same in HAPPY HOUR, and it seems to capture the electricity of New York in a way that feels so incredibly real. If you just close your eyes, you’ll be right there.
Granados has orchestrated a character and story so delicious that it makes me yearn for just one night like theirs. It is expertly and intentionally pretentious in a way that only some of the best writers can succeed in pulling off. It’s sated a hunger I wasn’t aware existed, and makes me desperate to ensure I maximise the full opportunities that London has to offer in a similar way to Isa.
Get that fire exit door, I’m off.