“Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams surrounds a protagonist going through a breakup and myriad other situations that send her on a downward spiral. It’s one of the first new adult novels I’ve read where mental health is brought into the storyline for a woman of color who’s on a dangerous path to destruction, yet it’s relatable and comical at times.
“Bridget Jones’ Diary” meets “Americanah” is how the publishers are describing this novel since Queenie is a 25-year-old, 2nd-generation Jamaican Brit struggling to get over her boyfriend, Tom. Some reviews complain about Queenie’s obsession with Tom since he’s white, but she’s a millennial who thought she found her soul mate and has a dating preference. The story opens to Queenie in a clinic where she learns she’s had a miscarriage, even with her IUD in use. But she can’t go home and tell Tom, and he’s tired of the lack of communication, so he asks Queenie to move out of their apartment. She ends up renting a room while trying to get ahead in her journalism career. She pitches stories but keeps getting distracted by her colleague, Ted, who seems persistent in workplace flirtation. But Queenie believes she and Tom would get back together with her friends Darcy, Kyazike, and Cassandra trying to convince her otherwise. While fending off Ted, Queenie falls into a one-night stand habit with men from OKCupid and other places who have objectified her body as a BBW. All her bad decisions around men explode in her face. The explosion then stimulates her anxiety until she has a breakdown where she has move into her grandparents’ home and ask for professional help to get her life back on track.
The novel opens up to Queenie’s miscarriage, so there’s a theme of making bad sexual health decisions with unprotected sex and multiple partners within a short amount of time. Also, there’s a theme of bigger black women being objectified for only sex due to their size and race. Queenie feels she’s not worthy of a relationship, especially when she deals with non-black men; the reason why she chooses men outside her race coming up later in the book. Mental health surfaces through her depression and anxiety with the roots of her pain stemming from her own mother’s bad decisions around men. Depending on her religious Jamaican family, we see the first- and second-generation issues from immigration that linger with Queenie being the first to graduate from college but unhappy that the career of her dreams is stalling because she’s a black woman seeing her white colleagues moving forward.
Overall, the book may slowly grow on the reader since it’s one bad decision after the next, but once Queenie’s layers come undone, there’s a deconstruction of why she’s making these decisions. And these actions could be interpreted as “wild” and “promiscuous” for a woman of color, opening up to judgment, but many women period like men deal with sex and love differently, especially in their 20s. That’s why this novel stands out for portraying a very imperfect character. Though you might not agree with her actions, there’s a level of realistic growth in Queenie identifying, understanding, and rectifying her issues.