This novel, full of dark humour, horrifying realness and a ton of emotion, is one of the most brilliant and topical stories I’ve read in a while.
She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.
She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?
This book truly took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a dark humour, such honest and brutal reality, but I loved every second of it, even the painful parts. Queenie is one of the most brilliant, layered and complex characters I’ve read in a while.
Despite some exceptionally heartbreaking moments, much of this novel is full of humour and hope. Queenie and her friend Kyazike both add moments of political seriousness and moments of true hilarity, often coming at the same time, and so Carty-Williams provides a complex layer of emotions that makes Queenie seem particularly ‘real’. At one point, when Queenie is at a Black Lives Matter march, her nervousness and fear is overtaken by her need to express her anger and desperation for change, and it’s powerful scenes like this that really bring home just how current this book is. Queenie also experiences some awful racist and physical abuse through dating apps, which could be incredibly painful for some readers- but it’s her resilience, her strength and the support of her friends and family which carry her through.
This book is also unique in that it focuses on the concept of mental health within in a Black British-Jamaican family. It’s complex, messy, but full of love and a deep family bond. Queenie’s pain, often heartbreaking, is felt by the reader and is sadly relatable. The scenes with Janet are really touching and as Queenie opens up the reader further understands the pain she has been through. Her mental health is written with such astuteness that the reader lives through it with her. It’s fascinating, heartbreaking but hope is always there. I was really happy with the ending, it was the perfect way to bring together all the complex emotions that were felt throughout the book.
Despite the tough times, there are lots of happy and hilarious moments, and the contrast between the two is what makes this book. There’s something in here for everyone to enjoy, but it’s Queenie herself who excels – and this is all due to Carty-Williams’ funny, clever, dark and topical writing.
Trapeze, 11th April 2019