Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams was my Book of the Month pick for March. One look at the cover and I was sold. Everything from the box braids to the ear piercings screamed: You will relate to this book. I have *never* regretted judging a book by its cover so much. <insert facepalm emoji>
It literally pains me to write this review. I wanted to love this book and I barely even liked it. I was ready to black girl magic hashtag y’all too death. In the end, I felt no magic, just an extreme sense of disappointment.
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican-Brit who lives in London. She is also very clearly having a quarter-life crisis. Dissatisfied with her work as a journalist, frustrated with her family, and facing heartbreak as her longtime boyfriend, Tom, asks her to leave their shared apartment Queenie’s life is a mess. Her friends try their best to steer her back on course, but Queenie will not listen. Loneliness drives her to rebound dating and by dating I mean randomly hooking up with men she barely knows and who treat her like crap.
Tom’s desire for a break leaves Queenie’s life in shambles that 336 pages are not enough to fix. Queenie faces many issues true to Millenials today. Income vs Rent. Dating vs Online hook-ups. Friends vs Frienemies. Personal growth vs Family expectations. Bad decision after bad decision leaves Queenie at rock-bottom.
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Queenie had so much potential. Candice Carty-Williams grazes over some heavy topics in the black community: Interracial relationships. Gentrification. Police brutality. Casual sex. Carty-Williams even touches on the over-sexualization of black women and the stigmas of mental health care in the black community. That list alone gave Queenie the potential to be a relatable, 5-star read. I can’t count the ways it fell short for me.
Queenie and Tom’s relationship is presented in flashbacks. I literally cringed during their text exchanges. Queenie is obnoxious and it has a lot more to do with her personality than her race. Queenie passes time during their “break” by entertaining a string of white men who treat her horribly. The reason presented (and barely presented I might add) for Queenie refusing to date black men just don’t seem to justify her willingness to accept such abuse from white men.
Queenie tries to address political issues at work but is never quite heard or allowed to work on the pieces that move her. She is in a world surrounded by white people. She chooses white men and white friends while simultaneously being upset by things like gentrification and her white magazine’s refusal to publish police brutality pieces. It’s all a bit confusing.
What I Loved
What I Liked
Candice Carty-Williams did a good job of portraying the struggle black women face when it comes to admitting we are depressed. The black family has a real “you’ll get over it because I did” way of handling things like anxiety and depression. Mental healthcare is truly a topic that needs the stigma removed from it, especially in the black community.
My Biggest Pet Peeve
Queenie is filled with incidents of Queenie being hyper-sexualized. As a black woman, I know this is a real issue but my God so much of it came off as gratuitous. Mind you, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of sexual abuse and disrespect but something about the way it’s presented in Queenie almost turns the problem into a caricature of its real self.
What I Hated
She is probably the most unrelatable, unlikable character I’ve ever read. I can’t articulate how much I wanted to love this book and how disappointed I am that I didn’t.
All In All
You couldn’t pay me to reread this book. But I still think you should read it for yourself to see if you like it. I may have disliked it (strongly) but there are plenty of positive reviews in strong support of Candice Carty-Williams‘s Queenie as well. Pick up a copy and come back and let me know what you think.