As you may or may not know, I went to my first convention ever last year. Fanime Con in San Jose, CA. Ever since I was young, I've always been really into anime, comic books, and science-fiction-fantasy. Even before it was cool to do so. Going to a con was one of my life goals, but I used to be really shy when I was younger, so I didn't go in my teens or early twenties because the thought of being in a large crowd, alone, was way too scary.
When I posted about going on Goodreads, I got so many kind comments from people who shared their experiences going to cons and offered helpful tips about expediting various things and how to be safe. The positivity and support I got from my internet friends made me even more confident and excited about going.
Fanime Con is one of the smaller cons, so there weren't a lot of celebrities or anything, the way larger cons in San Francisco and Los Angeles have. Christina Vee, the voice actress, was there, and so was a famous cosplay duo whose names I can't remember, but they're big on Instagram and make their costumes themselves. Mostly, though, it was just regular people doing their own thing.
As a geeky woman, I was very excited when I heard about QUEENS OF GEEK. It was announced right around the time that I was going to Fanime, so I was still high on the excitement of going to the geek equivalent of Disneyland (and yes, it's pretty much just as expensive). I was also worried, because I've read a couple books that tried and failed to capture what geek culture is like.
Would QUEENS OF GEEK live up to my expectations?
QUEENS OF GEEK is about three high school seniors. Charlie, a famous YouTuber and indie actress who is openly bisexual and of Chinese descent; Jamie, a Latinx character who's into geek culture and movies; and Taylor, a bookophile who's heavily into a series called Queen of Firestone (think Throne of Glass) and who is neurodivergent (she's on the autistic spectrum). The book is about the three of them going to something called SupaCon and exploring their interests while also discovering more about themselves.
Charlie is easily my favorite character. I loved her personality. She was strong and stood up for herself, and it was easy to see why she had so many followers. Wilde manages to capture the in-your-face authenticity that many YouTube stars are known for, for better or for worse. Her relationship with Alyssa was great, and I loved how many of the stereotypes about bisexuality were brought up and debunked. They were great together and I would happily read a book about them.
Taylor was a different story. I loved what the author was trying to do with her character. I could relate to her book obsession, and I also liked that she was fuller figured and how some of the negative stereotypes about that were addressed (at one point, someone body-shames her for cosplaying a character who is much thinner than she is - something that sadly happens a lot, especially online). I also liked that she was neurodivergent and how her anxiety disorder was portrayed. The problem was, I just didn't like her as a character. Every single chapter, she cries. Every. Single. Chapter.
I actually liked Taylor better through Charlie's eyes because it was obvious that Charlie liked her and considered her a good friend. Maybe that was the point - that we're all unlikable when viewed through our own eyes because we're so preoccupied with our own flaws. Charlie only saw the good in Taylor, and so did Jamie. I really tried to feel the same way, but could never manage anything better than indifference. It's hard to like a character that literally spends all their time crying and whining.
Oh, and let's talk about Reese. Oh. My. God. I'd say that his character was an exaggeration, but sadly he's the embodiment of mansplainers everywhere who think that their 'sexism' is just a natural byproduct of masculinity (nope) and that women are precious, temperamental creatures who need to be saved from their own delusions (nope, nope, nope, nope, noooope). As a blogger, I'm sorry to say that I have encountered people just like Reese. People who felt obligated to explain to me why my views of certain literary classics were incorrect or misinformed, or why my feminist beliefs are redundant or irrelevant. Reese is probably the best character in this book, because he is the worst.
Every time Charlie shut him down, I wanted to dance around and cheer.
QUEENS OF GEEK captures conventions pretty well, whether it's the excitement of going to your first convention and meeting your heroes or the dull tedium of waiting in long lines in poorly ventilated rooms. I liked most of the characters in here and appreciated the diversity - especially since the diverse characters were fully fleshed out, and their stories weren't just about exploring their identities, but rather how those identities shaped and affected their various personal journeys.
Not bad, Jen Wilde. Not bad.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
3 out of 5 stars