Title: Queens of Geek
Author: Jen Wilde
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Date of Publication: 14th March, 2017
Page Count: 288 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.
While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
This was such a sweet and heartwarming read. I feel that at times the writing was a little too simplistic, but the plotting and heart of the story swept me away too much to care.
Normally I’m not a fan of two or more different character POVs, but it worked well for me here and it means the reader gets to enjoy two absolutely adorable romances for the price of one. It also means the author can more realistically delve into different issues that many people suffer without it seeming overly melodramatic the way it would be if they were to saddle a sole main character with a whole ton of baggage.
I know I’ve said this many times, but I’ll repeat – I LOVE books that deal with mental illness and LGBT+ relationships, and this one featured both! One of the protagonists, Taylor, is a recently diagnosed ‘Aspie girl’ and struggling with anxiety issues and intermittent panic attacks; the other protagonist, Charlie, is a bisexual WOC!
I’ve read another book recently with a protagonist suffering from an anxiety disorder, ‘10 Things I Can See From Here‘, and Taylor is not quite as neurotic as Maeve (I say that with affection), so for readers who were put off by her personal tics, it’s not quite as all-pervasive here. Tay’s challenges are more related to the social environment, and boy, do I feel her on that! I recognize a lot of myself in her – I also flew overseas to the US with a couple friends and the part where she’s having a meltdown because the sounds, the people, the stress of this new environment all becomes too much for her is way too familiar.
“Everything feels like I’m on a stage, spotlight on me, all eyes on me, watching, judging. Like I’m one second away from total disaster. It’s invisible, it’s irrational, it’s never-ending. I could be standing there, smiling and chatting like everything is totally fine, while secretly wanting to scream and cry and run away.”
Omg, YES, this entirely. It’s so validating when an author can express how you feel and there’s that feeling of camaraderie when you relate whole-heartedly to a character and don’t feel so alone! ‘Social hangover’ is a term I hadn’t come across before, but totally will be adding to my vocabulary from now on.
Taylor and Jamie were just too gosh-darned cute throughout the book. I usually find friends-to-lovers arcs really boring, but the author won me over with these adorkable kids! They were so caring and considerate of each other, and I wanted to smush their heads together and be like ‘NOW KISS’ because the dancing around one another got so frustrating sometimes, but I did understand their reluctance to endanger their friendship if the other person didn’t feel the same way. And this is again where the dual protagonist/alternating POV helped, because I’d normally find it tedious how long-drawn-out these storylines can be, but Taylor only narrating half the book meant that their will-they-won’t-they dance didn’t overstay its welcome. There was sufficient build-up and then payoff!
It helped that I really bought their friendship. Sometimes characters are so obviously pining for each other that it’s annoying, especially if they get jealous at the object of their affection daring to date someone else. (yo, if you don’t make a move, you have no call to sulk about it) But Taylor and Jamie had a great rapport and we see them enjoying spending time with each other, just chatting about their interests or supporting one another in things important to them, and you could see why they would slowly fall in love.
Moving on to Charlie, I’m in love with how she was portrayed – zero angst about being bisexual, she was already comfortable with this part of her identity and didn’t have to come to terms with a sudden realization that she was attracted to girls. There are so many books with gritty ‘coming out’ arcs, so I like that this one was so matter-of-fact and hilariously down-to-earth about it; Charlie realized she was bisexual after reading a tumblr article about ‘You Won’t Believe These Actresses Are Bisexual’ and googling the term! In this day and age, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people recognize their orientation by coming across articles and discussions or a community online who identify the same way; that’s how I realized I’m asexual.
It’s also great that her arc wasn’t bogged down with descriptions of rampant toxic biphobia, because a lot of times it’s so exaggerated and OTT that it takes me out of the story or seems contrived so that the author can make a preachy moral point. Instead there were smaller instances of seemingly harmless remarks that people make which often get overlooked or discounted as unimportant (for eg. ‘not believing in bisexuals’, wtf), but the characters reinforce that it’s just as prejudiced and hurtful.
I love how confident and extroverted Charlie is as well – a large majority of YA female protagonists are overly insecure and dependent on the male love interest to validate them, but Charlie wonderfully models a different kind of lead.
“A selection of avatars appear, and I’m thrilled to see I’m one of them. Me. The geek girl from the suburbs of Melbourne. The youngest daughter of Chinese immigrants. The only open bi kid at school. The drama freak who makes vlogs in her bedroom.
I’m the hero.
Finally, I feel like the rest of the world is starting to see me the way I’ve always seen myself.”
How brilliant is that?! She has a healthy sense of self-esteem, and is pleased that the wider community finally seems to accept her as good enough instead of an outsider who needs to assimilate. It also highlights the importance of diversity and representation in the media, which is something I can’t emphasize enough. (HOLLYWOOD, THE DEFAULT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE WHITE, OKAY)
Charlie and Alyssa’s burgeoning relationship was so freaking beautiful, I loved how they both crushed on each other and slowly fumbled their way to declaring a mutual interest, and the dates they went on were so creative and entertaining! I held my breath hoping and praying that it would all work out and douchey ex-boyfriends or the media wouldn’t interfere and tear them apart. These girls showed a lot of maturity and I thought it was brilliant how they talked out their issues, instead of replaying that tired and done-to-death trope of the Grand Misunderstanding causing them to break up and angst separately before coming back together.
Aside from Alyssa, I also liked Charlie’s interactions with Taylor and Jamie – it’s great to see a book where girls are supportive of each other, and a boy and a girl can be good friends! This basically never happens, so I’m pretty psyched about how it played out here. It would’ve been easy to isolate Charlie in her romantic plot-line and sub-plot with Reese, but we get moments of her with her best friends and the lovely dynamic between the trio.
Basically, I 110% recommend this book – it was such an enjoyable fluffy read that made me wriggle with glee and bask in contentment with each chapter. I was sad to have it end, but really happy to have read it!
Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties approve this book!
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Swoon Reads via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.