Who wouldn’t love adorable, reckless 20-something Queenie Jenkins? She scrabbles to figure out work, love, sex, and roommates, all while the world comes at her too quickly and the past holds her down.
Anyone who’s struggled to know who they are, what they want from their spins around the sun, and how to find and keep hold of love can relate. Meaning: all of us.
Though it’s also possible to find Queenie entirely irritating at the same time. But readers, we’re capable of such complex reasoning, aren’t we? Able to hold both things at once, equally?
Because this book shines in how it addresses the stigma surrounding mental health. As an adult Queenie still suffers for the abuse she and her mother have endured at the hands of her stepfather. This carries forward into her life in a number of ways, and after a breakup with longtime beau Tom, Queenie falters and needs help. Compounding her troubles, she’s put on leave at work because of sexual harassment allegations. In the midst of crisis, Queenie moves back in with her grandparents.
At first, her old-fashioned Jamaican British family balks at the idea of Queenie seeking behavioral health counseling. When her grandfather offers a show of support – he doesn’t want her to suffer the way her mother has - she’s able to get the help she needs and begins to find her way.
That Candice Carty-Williams also weaves into the story Queenie’s responses to what it’s like to be the only black woman in a room - how her coworkers and lovers alike fetishize her, touch her hair, clumsily try to show her how woke they are - also adds to the story’s complexity.
Ultimately, if you can overlook your frustration at the ways that, in her immaturity, Queenie - and by extension, we - fumble through our early adult years, you’ll find that this book is a worthy read. I certainly did.
Thank you to NetGalley for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.