Manchester, UK

REVIEW: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review on here, but that changes today. The book I will be reviewing lived in my virtual shopping cart for a long while, but after being overwhelmed with the social media hype, I gave in completely and hit purchase excitedly and impatiently. I finished reading it weeks ago but life happened, and I got caught up in things I had to priorities.

When I opened Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, unaware of what I was about to dive into, I quickly realised I was in for a good read. The girl depicted on the bright pink cover came to life instantly and reading her thoughts was indeed exciting, her voice was full of character and a ton of charm. Queenie, a 25-year-old writer at a newspaper is a protagonist in a fiction novel I related to as she wasn’t so foreign to me from the start. There was so much surrounding her that resembled the environments I grew up in and are deeply rooted in the culture that raised me.

All Queenie wants is her ‘normal’ life back, but from the first few pages, nothing is going her way. The book is set in South London where similarly to Queenie’s life, everything appears to be changing. She is on a ‘break’ from her long-time boyfriend, Tom, who isn’t texting her back, she is falling at her job, still doesn’t speak to her mother, is forced to find a new place to live whilst simultaneously on the verge of a breakdown. It’s all going downhill.

Throughout the book, we see Queenie struggle with life and make really bad (some terrible) decisions along the way. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that it is about more than a tale on complicated romance. Rather, there’s a lot more depth to the story. From her dysfunctional family to her toxic relationships, self-sabotaging ways and declining mental health – so many layers get peeled off as you flip through each page. It’s a book about pain and trauma and how the road to healing is rarely ever linear but rather a longer process than we’d like it to be.

Enjoyable?

I definitely can see why this book caused so much buzz on and offline. It’s a candid representation of a millennial young woman who is complicated, far from perfect and very human at that. Queenie definitely had her own personality and whether you liked her character or not she was very much herself.

There were definitely a few things I didn’t see coming and a few moments that kept me on my toes. One of my favourite things about the book was how it portrayed certain aspects of daily life realistically. The casual blatant racism and microaggressions that Queenie faced every day were spot on. The book brought to life a reality that we know all too well is still breathing in society.

The one thing I could relate to so much was how black culture was represented in the book. Maybe it is because I admittedly hadn’t read many novels that centre the black experiences, but there were so many moments where I didn’t require further explanation or times with her family that made me feel like the writer had been peeping at mine. Queenie was often struggling to belong in two different worlds at the same time. That was something that made her more relatable as I can identify with that feeling so much.

Criticism?

The more I think about it I feel like I didn’t love Queenie herself as much as I wanted to. I understand that the writer wanted to create a character who wasn’t without her flaws, shortcomings or bad habits, but as I fell deeper and deeper into the pages, her constant toxic behaviour became really difficult to get through without feeling the urge to scream. Maybe that was the intended reaction.
She definitely isn’t the type of protagonist that exists to be a role model and not all leading characters have to be, but she was all about that self-sabotage and a lot of the times she came off as immature and way too impulsive.

We saw her fall again and again into detrimental habits she just couldn’t break and for a while, it seemed like she wasn’t even trying break the cycle. In many ways, she reminded me of that one friend we all have who asks for advice on the same issue every time you meet but acts like she heard none of it – ever.

A lot of people have fairly criticized the book for representing black culture in a very stereotypical way, but I don’t believe that was necessarily done on purpose. While I enjoyed being able to find resemblances with my own life, I do, understand where the criticism stems from.
Many cited this book as one to read a few weeks ago in the conversations surrounding education on anti-racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. While I feel that the book explored the issue, I believe in many ways it only scratched the surface.
If you are looking to read about the black experience, this cannot be the only book you pick up.

Writing Style? Reading Time?

In terms of the writing style of Candice Carty-Williams, I’d say it was quite easy to follow and instantly digestible. The descriptions were as vivid as the colour of the hardcover. With every scene I felt like I too was present in every room Queenie stepped in and I could imagine every character in the detail of who I believed them to be. I loved the way every conversation came across as natural, real and perhaps even mundane.

The first time I opened the book I wasn’t convinced regarding the text bubble format in some pages, but quickly got used to that.
It certainly is a book that can be read in a jiffy, especially if you have the time and patience to stomach the (many) terrible decisions Queenie makes in one go, but I did take my time with it. I’m also not the fastest reader though.

Your restless romantic roamer

What books have you been loving lately? And why?

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