REVIEW: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

In brief: Queenie isn’t having a great time – she and her boyfriend are on a break, she’s failing at work and she’s making bad decisions. Can she turn it around?

The good: Queenie is a fantastic character.

The not-so-good: Some of Queenie’s choices aren’t great.

Why I chose it: Heard great things about it (copy thanks to Hachette).

Year: 2019

Pages: 392

Publisher: Trapeze (Hachette)

Setting: London

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Queenie is a book with a range of emotions, from happiness to despair, that tackles a wide range of topics (including race, self-worth, mental health and trauma). Queenie is a complex character, and Candice Carty-Williams does not hold back on her portrayal of Queenie’s struggles. It’s a bold and strong novel with the kind of assurance you don’t always get from a debut. I loved it.

Queenie is not OK. She’s a 25-year-old Black woman in London and she’s on a break in the relationship (not of her doing). She can’t seem to concentrate on her work and is bored by it. But that’s not the only things Queenie has going on. She’s had to take a room in a mouldy share house, she’s objectified by men and she carries multiple traumas from her childhood and the difficulties of being Black in the UK. Nobody around her seems to care about police brutality and Black Lives Matter to the extent she does. It’s all too much to worry about so she tries to forget. Nights out with her friends where she ends up incredibly drunk and sex with men who objectify her and abuse her. A secret that she tries to tell her ex, but who won’t respond. Family trying, but their own beliefs don’t help. Queenie is in a downward spiral, yet this novel isn’t as dark as it sounds. Queenie has some good times, with good friends and can see the humour in some of her actions, even when she’s recoiling from what she’s done.

Queenie is a character that you want to support. She’s a caring person, who recognises the need for help. Her friends and boss recognise it too, and later on so does her family. Their support goes a long way in helping this novel being 100% bleak. Queenie’s niece is good fun, and very mature for a teenager. Likewise, her friend Kyazike is straight talking and super loyal. Queenie’s grandparents were also amusing in their banter and need to control the hot water, but very caring too.

I loved the use of WhatsApp messages, DMs in dating apps and emails as a form of communication. It made the story more relatable and gave insights into the other characters through their messages. Using the first person for Queenie to tell her story also made the novel’s progression raw and heavy with feeling. Yet it still felt light hearted with a sense of hope at the end. It was hard to leave Queenie after the story finished. I really hope she’s doing okay.

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