A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way.
Welcome to my spoiler-free review of Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.
The Characters & World Building
Say hello to my newest favourite book of all time. Queenie. What a book! I went into this knowing I would feel some relation to the characters but I wasn’t ready to literally FEEL Queenie. It really felt like I was living and breathing her life. I have seen reviews critisizing her as a character that is hard to love but I adored her. I could see her through my own eyes and I truly felt what is like to be her.
“Turns out the sadness that silence from the person you love brings can be temporarily erased by the dull thrill of attention from strangers.”Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
I come from a mixed background. My mum is Jamaican/British and my dad is African American. Like Queenie, my dad has not been present in my life at all but unlike Queenie, I was lucky enough to have an incredible mum who gave up everything to raise myself and my younger brother. I am in my mid-twenties and just like Queenie, I spent 2020 feeling like I was having the quarter-life crisis!
Every bad decision she made, knowing and sometimes not knowing what a terrible idea it was. The inner battle of intense attachment for someone whilst also being completely detached at the same time. Wanting to be close to someone… but not too close. The struggle of inter-racial relationships with racist family members and your “partner” doing absolutely nothing to stand up for you. There was one quote in particular that I read that I distinctly remember saying to one of my own exes after his dad was racist towards me:
‘I hope your next girlfriend is white, Tom. That way she won’t be too fucking much for you.’Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
I honestly cannot say I have ever related to a main character or any fictional character as much as I have Queenie. Every struggle she faced, at work, with her family, friends. All of it! I loved how Candice captured the essence of working-class culture. Living in London, the tower blocks, the slang and corner shops. Coming from nothing and trying to make something of yourself.
The Plot & Story Progression
Following Queenies life and being in her head was both dark and funny at times. You laugh with her, sometimes at her and cry with her too. I love that the plot covers so many topical issues: mental health, sex and sexual health, race, relationships. So many things. Queenie is a book that every young adult, of colour or not, should read.
There were some very interesting twists and turns thrown in there too. They came when I least expected. I would be listening along to the audiobook and then out of nowhere your heart is sinking or your picking up your jaw off of the floor!
What is most important though is that the story encourages growth and learning. About what it’s like to be a person of colour in the UK, be a young person with no privilege, a child with a complicated family background.
Final thoughts & Rating
In conclusion, I’d like to touch more on the aforementioned negative reviews. I was reading them and genuinely felt myself getting fed up.
“That’s the thing about people who love to play devil’s advocate!’ I shouted. ‘There’s no emotional involvement in it for you, there’s nothing at stake!”Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
Before you judge Queenie, perhaps try to understand the place that it is coming from and look deeper at the issues being represented? Some of reviews I read really highlight the fact that there is a serious racial divide in the UK, but I hope that in the future more people can learn to be more accepting as people as equals.
Queenie is an incredible book and deserves every award it has received. Thank you so much to Candice, the author, for allowing me to feel so in touch with a fictional character. It meant the world to me and it’s a book I’ll never stop talking about.