TW: parental abuse, manipulative and abusive girlfriend, alcoholism
I’ve had Queens of Geek on my TBR for so long but never managed to get to it. But when this book came from the library, I had to start reading it immediately. As someone who started reading diverse books consciously only after I began blogging last year, I can say that this was probably my first YA read with an entirely queer cast and it goes to show that writing a book with diverse characters should be the norm and it should not be difficult to reflect the reality of our world in the books we write.
Emmy is a drummer for Brightsiders who has been labeled the lastest media trainwreck after a drunken accident. Along with the paparazzi onslaught, she also has to deal with her totally uncaring, emotionally abusive and manipulative parents who would rather sell her story for money than show some support for their daughter. Emmy’s girlfriend Leslie is also abusive, always berating and belittling her but showing just enough affection for Emmy to feel grateful because all she has ever wanted is to be liked and loved. Due to all these negative influences in her life, her self esteem is extremely low, she questions if she is worthy of anything every step of the way and struggles throughout the book to accept herself, deciding to come out about her bisexuality, believe in her self worth and trust that her chosen family is enough.
She is supported in all this by her friends who are truly amazing. Ryan is the goofy Korean-American guitar player who always brings a smile when he is around but is secretly coming to terms with his own bisexuality. Alfie is a pansexual genderqueer teen who suffers from social anxiety but puts up this confident front for his fans and everyone around him and is loved by all for the same. He has always been there for Emmy and their friendship, support and thoughtfulness towards each other is so endearing. Chloe is a biracial non binary teen and they are Emmy’s best friend. Their insight in helping Emmy realize how she is already loved by her friends and doesn’t need her parents or Leslie to feel worthy is extremely helpful in Emmy’s progress in confronting her doubts. Kass is EMmy’s cousin and best friend and though they are separated by geography, it is great to see them always be in touch, be encouraging and empower each other.
There is a lot of drama in this story and I think it’s written well – teenagers dealing with new found popularity, reconciling with the fact that love of their fans also comes with a fair share of trolls and paparazzi always looking for them to screw up, every single step of their life scrutinized and put up for public consumption, handling people who just want to be around them for the fame or money or notoriety; all this while trying to produce the best music they can and be respectful of their supporters. There are also a lot of conversations among the characters about biphobia, bierasure, misgendering, but despite this, how they have to be true to themselves and their fans because it might help others who are struggling too.
The romance between Emmy and Alfie is quite steamy but it still felt a little insta-lovey. But I could still connect to it because their long term friendship is established well and I really loved that they could express their feelings through songs. The last part of the story definitely took a little dramatic turn than what I would have liked but it is resolved pretty quickly. The ending is sweet and optimistic and it showed that if you choose to surround yourself with people who love and support you for what you are, you can truly be happy.
This book might seem a little over the top in some situations, but on second thought, it’s actually quite close to reality in our world of celebrity culture. So, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read not just a swoon worthy romance but a book that confronts important issues without being preachy and in a very realistic manner with lots of empathy.