When we first meet her, Jamaican-British Queenie is facing a breakup, or rather not facing a breakup by pretending she and her boyfriend are just taking a little time alone. This blend of optimism and self-destruction is the hallmark of Queenie’s character throughout the novel.
While I was waiting for this book, I read more than one review that calls Queenie the “new Bridget Jones” but that wasn’t my take at all. There’s a rawness in Queenie that wasn’t present in romcom Bridget Jones’ Diary, or in the typical dating-disaster chicklit. The author makes readers care for Queenie even when she does self-destructive things, even when she does something completely stupid. And she makes pretty major mistakes, some of her romantic choices had me cringing and wishing I could warn her off.
I loved Queenie’s affectionately intrusive family members, even when they were driving her crazy. I mean, sure I empathized with Queenie, but not so much that I couldn’t have a laugh at her expense. If you’ve ever had well-meaning, nosy aunties giving you too much advice, you’ll understand.
I also really connected with the depressing gentrification of the old neighborhood. I wasn’t really familiar with the London neighborhoods named in this novel, but I just imagined the Jamaican neighborhoods of Brooklyn and the stylish, $15 cupcake neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Gentrification is the same everywhere.
The whole novel pops with clever but realistic dialogue. Some of the story is told through group texts between Queenie and her friends, a trio she nicknames The Corgis (surrounding the queen, obviously). I’m not usually a fan of epistolary novels, and scenes of characters texting can often feel like lazy writing, but here, we can see friendships develop. In the group text, we can see Queenie’s worries and insecurities, and we can see Darcy and Kyazike united in caring for Queenie, even though they know such different sides of her.
This is a bit of a spoiler, since it reveals the last scene of the novel. LOOK AWAY NOW! Go read the book first! One of the things I liked best is how Queenie’s arc didn’t end with her meeting a man and falling in love. For most of the book, she really wanted to meet a man, and I felt sure that she was on the path to meeting a worthwhile guy, but the story ends with career growth, renewed family connection, and strong friendships, not Prince Charming.