“We’re all messy. What kind of friends would we be if we demanded you only show us your prettiness? This isn’t Instagram – it’s real life. And real life is messy.”
Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek tells the story of three friends who travel from Australia to California to attend Supacon, a geeky convention similar to San Diego Comic Con. Charlie, an actress and Youtuber, must deal with the fallout of her recent breakup with her co-star, while Taylor copes with her social anxiety and her fear of trying new things. Along with their friend Jaime, they spend the weekend learning about themselves and coming to terms with their relationships – necessities before leaving for college next year.
Now I’m a con-goer, so the setting of this book is what sold me on it. I’m happy to say that Wilde captures the enthusiasm and passion surrounding conventions like these, and that alone made this book a joy to read. The story has a nostalgic air about it, and it was almost like getting to relive one of the many amazing weekends I’ve had at cons in the past. The emphasis put on the personality shaping powers of fandom was also so relatable for me, as I imagine it would be for anyone who’d want to read this in the first place.
The characters in this novel offer such a wide range of perspectives, and they challenge you to experience the world from a multitude of viewpoints. Of the POV characters, Charlie is bi-sexual and Chinese and Taylor is overweight, has an anxiety disorder, and is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. I love that so much is represented in this story, and speaking solely to the anxiety rep, I appreciate how well done it is. The passages that dealt with Taylor’s fear of social situations or described her panic attacks were spot on and really resonated with me.
I also love that Wilde manages to address so many important topics throughout the book without focusing the entire plot on them or going on tangents. She subtly critiques issues that plague modern society, but she does it enough to get the point across. Two instances in particular stand out to me. First, she craps on the idea that bi-sexuality is somehow less valid if someone hasn’t been with a person of the same gender (or if they’re currently dating someone of the opposite gender). And second, she draws attention to the fact that famous women are often bombarded with questions or comments regarding their relationships or looks, while men tend to be praised or criticized for their talent alone.
Queens of Geek also gets an A+ for feminist content, which is a surefire way to keep me invested. The importance of intersectionality comes up on more than one occasion, which is fantastic when you consider the intended audience for this book: teenagers just starting to learn about and form opinions on social issues. There are also a number of passages that take on the idea that a woman’s value is dependent on her appearance or her weight. And of course, the friendship between Charlie and Taylor is something more authors should strive to replicate. Imagine that, two young women who are supportive of one another! It’s almost like we aren’t all running around and ripping each other’s hair out to achieve the approval of men.
My main critique for Queens of Geek is that I would have liked to see more detail in regards to Charlie’s career. Most of the scenes involving filming, video-editing, or acting are quickly shoved aside to focus on relationships and character growth – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you don’t see a lot of novels with bloggers or Youtubers at the forefront, and I personally was interested in seeing that play out. Also, some of the dialogue is cheesy to the point of being unrealistic, and I do hate cringing at dialogue.
I gave Queens of Geek a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I have a lot of respect for what Wilde managed to say and do in a mere 300 pages, and the story was light and enjoyable despite being an important one. I recommend this to everyone, but especially to my fellow nerds – the people who have fandom to thank for the person they are. Buy this book and take it to the beach with you. Or just sprawl out on your couch with it. Whatever you’re into.
I’d love to hear what you guys think in the comments below!