Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on March 19th, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
“The road to recovery is not linear. It’s not straight. It’s a bumpy path, with lots of twists and turns. But you’re on the right track.”
I got to kick off this month with a book I couldn’t put down!
Billed as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah (but I’d say more like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers.
After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queene seeks comfort in all the wrong places. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
I didn’t know what to expect with this book. The first chapter had multiple scenes that reminded me of a ’90s sitcom. But with a very British sense of humour.
Queenie is hilarious and it helps that there’s a rich set of side characters who add to her story. I love the dynamic Queenie had between her girlfriends and the relationship she had with her Jamaican grandparents.
But don’t let that fool you. This book goes to some very dark places. While Bridget Jones is kooky, klutzy, and gets herself into embarrassing situations; Queenie is way more of a complex character. You might not be able to relate to her, but you recognize why she is the way she is.
I wouldn’t call Queenie a loveable character. Most of the book, I just wanted to yell at her to make better choices. She kept setting herself up for failure time after time. In fact, it got pretty annoying at times when she recognized her own destructive behaviour and continued on anyway.
But I appreciated the frank discussion about mental health especially with a Black character at the forefront. Mental health is rarely talked about among POC in real life, so it’s nice to see a young woman actively seeking out therapy to help herself out of her spiral.
So even though I was frustrated with Queenie’s behaviour, it was an honest portrayal of a young woman dealing with some severe issues. And I liked that there was a lot of humour to balance out the darkness.
Additionally, Carty-Williams explores very relevant topics, such as dating, racism, and sexual harassment and assault. This book packs a lot in and you wouldn’t be able to tell just from the light-hearted humour from the first chapter.
You’ll see the damage that racist comments and microaggressions can do to a Black person. You’ll witness white men treat Queenie and her body differently because of her race. They repeatedly want her to be the Jezebel trope. So if you’re looking to educate yourself about what’s going on in the world right now, this is an alternative to the non-fiction books that everyone’s been recommending.