Candice Carty-Williams has created an intricately layered character in Queenie. Queenie Jenkins is a young journalist trying to grapple with the upheavals of modern life, navigating a new road now that her previous one has been upended, and left her reeling in self-doubt and uncertainty. At the beginning of the novel, we witness a break(up) between her and her boyfriend. But Queenie has high hopes and she doesn’t give up so quick. She respects his need for space, but leaves the entire relationship in his corner, waiting for him to ask her back. She seems to be an independent woman, making the rules and breaking them as she sees fit, but we soon see that she has deep-seated issues that prevent her from living authentically to who she is or whom she wants to be.
Queenie flounders and tries to gain footing in her newly single status, which she isn’t exactly admitting to. As she stumbles, tragically, through a mess of men who treat her so poorly you want to look away, and want to skim some of the scenes, it becomes apparent just how low she has traveled. Queenie lacks so much self-esteem that you, mostly lovingly, want to shake sense into her, be the friend to tell her all the wonderful things about herself, that she can’t seem to see for herself.
She has seen hard times in her young life and her choices reflect that truth. Thankfully, for her and the reader, she is held up by a cast of truly endearing characters, who were actually the saving grace for me for over half of the novel. Her friends, whom she humorously refers to as The Corgis, give life to the story. They support and encourage her, as much as they call her out on the tough stuff.
Queenie’s behavior and resistance to see her self-worth was hard to swallow and the many texts and conversations between her and The Corgis provided some much-needed relief from falling into the rabbit hole of her self-destruction. Her grandparents and aunt bring the traditionalism of their age and culture, as well as humor, wisdom and a healthy dose of tough love to her.
It becomes apparent that Queenie suffers from extreme anxiety and isn’t finding the support she desperately needs. She self-medicates through poor choices and continues to make matters worse. Just when I was about to throw in the towel, although still hoping she would turn this train wreck around, she takes a step. She grabs hold of the beginning of her healing for herself, against the initial advice and wishes of her grandmother. It was probably the first time that I felt like jumping for joy, instead of frustration over her circumstances.
Candice Carty-Williams has introduced a character that is broken, relatable and hopeful. She represents hope for things getting better, and she’s a fighter. In her weakness, she finds her strength.
I’m so happy I stayed with her and her story to the end, despite is being iffy for too many pages, because I would have missed the beginning of her transformation and what I hope is just the start of Queenie knowing how valuable, strong and lovely she truly is. Queenie’s is a story of identity, finding and trusting a love that lasts in yourself, Queenie is a character you won’t forget.
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