I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both: A Novel
A beautiful punch in the gut like a mosh pit on a Saturday night. Mariah Stovall’s debut sweeps us into the tender-yet-vicious embrace of teenage friendship, connecting past, present, and future, and the heroes of post-hardcore, punk, and emo.
Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise meets Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity in a Black woman’s coming-of-age story, chronicling a life-changing friendship, the interplay between music fandom and identity, and the slipperiness of sanity
Set in the suburbs of Los Angeles and New York City, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both is an immersive journey into the life and mind of Khaki Oliver, who’s perennially trying to disappear into something: a codependent friendship, an ill-advised boyfriend, the punk scene, or simply, the ether. These days it’s a meaningless job and a comfortingly empty apartment. Then, after a decade of estrangement, she receives a letter from her former best friend. Fiona’s throwing a party for her newly adopted daughter and wants Khaki to join the celebration.
Khaki is equal parts terrified and tempted to reconnect. Their platonic love was confusing, all-consuming, and encouraged their worst impulses. While stalling her RSVP, Khaki starts crafting the perfect mixtape—revisiting memories of formative shows, failed romances, and the ups and downs of desire and denial—while weighing the risks and rewards of saying yes to Fiona again.
One song at a time, from 1980s hardcore to 2010s emo, the shared and separate contours of each woman’s mind come into focus. Will listening to the same old songs on repeat doom Khaki to a lonely life of arrested development? Or will hindsight help her regain her sense of self and pave a healthy path for the future, with or without Fiona?
Praise for I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both: A Novel
Nylon, A Must-Read Book of the Month
Messenger, A Must-Read Book of the Month
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Elle, Nylon, Bookshop, Goodreads, Electric Literature, The Millions, and Zibby Mag
"An impressively strong and inventively structured debut . . . I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both is a rare thing: a genuinely successful rock novel . . . This is an excellent novel, compassionate and filled with a sparkling intelligence about the human condition." —Michael Schaub, NPR
"Nostalgic yet fiercely relevant . . . this book is a coming-of-age treasure." —Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle
"An emotionally perceptive debut." —Keziah Weir, Vanity Fair
"If Mariah Stovall’s debut doesn’t have you pining for the past and reliving your own coming-of-age era, you may just be the Tin Man looking for a heart. Centering on a tender and tumultuous friendship and its killer soundtrack, this story is dynamic, agile and auspicious.” —Karla J. Strand, Ms.
“Stovall’s writing is gorgeous. Every word is perfectly crafted and the first sentence of chapter one lets you know you’re going to be on a wild ride.”—Archuleta Chisolm, Black Girl Nerds
"A novel that has plenty to say about how music can reshape our lives and the lives of those around us." —Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"Through intimate and careful observation of Khaki and her actions, Stovall creates a persuasive story focusing on the main character's inner world . . . The book presents a heart-warming adventure of friendship, music, and humanity using poetical expressions and poignant contemplations.” —Kiefer Jones, Books & Review
"There is so much bang for your buck in Stovall’s debut. It is an ode to growing up and letting music guide you . . . It’s a captivating play on friendship, anxiety, and the beauty of music." —Debutiful
"I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both burns brightly with familiar feelings of angst, uncertainty, and passion." —Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books
"A powerful testimony to the enduring violence of harmful relationships and the profoundly difficult task of recovery." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The rhythmic and lyrical quality of Stovall’s writing parallels the underlying playlist of punk music . . . This poignant tale explores illness, the role of music in one's life, and the blurred lines between friendship, sisterhood, codependency, and love." —Booklist
"The penetrating story of an erstwhile friendship . . . Readers will find plenty of rewards." —Publishers Weekly
"Mariah Stovall's prose sounds like driving in a car with your best friend, volume up high on your favorite song. I Love You So Much . . . resurrected feelings I had almost forgotten about what it means to be young in a hard, and nonetheless beautiful, world." —Vauhini Vara, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Immortal King Rao
“I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both is a funny, biting, and big-hearted coming of age story. Enter these pages for Mariah Stovall's witty renderings of the contradictions of millennial youth and for her lovingly excavated cultural artifacts; stay for her poignant reflections on what it means to grow into an adult, to be a friend, and to belong to our moment in history.” —Sanjena Sathian, author of Gold Diggers
“You don't need a prior relationship to the sounds and saints of punk, emo, and hardcore to get swept into the currents of Stovall's pulsing storytelling. Her debut artfully dilates the cruel intimacy of one teenage friendship into a dark but tender treatise on hunger, compulsion, and identity. If you've ever loved—a person, a hobby, a song—so intensely it hurt; this mosh pit of a novel will offer you both sanctuary and feedback.” —Stephen Kearse, music critic and author of Liquid Snakes
“Mariah Stovall’s heady debut plays an addictive game of connect-the-dots between two estranged friends through a galaxy of shared pop-culture references and personal history. I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both is a spiraling meditation on the porousness of music and memory, the blurred lines between obsession and friendship, and the hearts we must break in order to grow—including our own.” —Emma Brodie, author of Songs In Ursa Major
“Mariah Stovall's I Love You So Much It's Killing Us Both turns up the volume on contemporary literary fiction in the best, most mesmerizing way. This book is a blazing riff, completely on fire from the first propulsive chord. Khaki Oliver leads us on a captivating ride; she is, simply put, one of the most compelling narrators we have seen in quite some time.” —Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox
"Lyrical, musical, and brilliantly offbeat, this debut traces the aches and pains of young adulthood with such clarity I couldn’t help but be transported back to my own adolescence. Our narrator, Khaki Oliver, is angry and lonely, brimming with nostalgia, and laugh-out-loud funny. She yearns, longs, hurts, and turns alive on the page; I feel lucky to have spent the duration of this book with her." —Diana Clarke, author of The Hop and Thin Girls
"A ferocious debut that vibrates with music, insight and the electric torment of youth. I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both is a story of shared—and shed—trauma that lays bare the power of friendship to make, or break, a life." —Cecilia Rabess, author Everything's Fine
“Somehow, the best literature—the literature I live for—has always been punk, and Mariah Stovall’s novel is a beautiful case in point. I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both really shook me.” —John Wray, author of Gone to the Wolves
“With a gift for mapping the inner lives of her characters with precision and intensity, Stovall captures the chaos and confusion of not-quite adulthood. Like the punk rock anthems we refuse to outgrow, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both is the soundtrack to the damage we do to ourselves. It's a raw nerve, a meticulously coded manifesto, the coming of agency novel we’ve been waiting for.” —Jim Ruland, author of Make It Stop and Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records