Title: Queens of Geek
Author: Jen Wilde
Publication Date: March 14th 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBT
When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.
Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.
While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.
Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.
“As long as I have my family, my friends, and my fandom… I’ll be okay. No matter how messy life gets. Because I have a league of superheroes by my side. Some I’ve known for years. Others I’ve just met. Even more who I’ll never meet. I’m surrounded by superheroes. And that means I must be one, too. And everyone knows that no matter what darkness they face, heroes are destined to win. “
Queens of Geek is very much a Swoon Reads novel. There is cute romance, geekiness, charm, and it is an easy read. But there are also amazingly represented diverse narrators with a fat autistic heroine and a bisexual heroine of color. Queens of Geek manages both heart and discussions about intersectionality, anxiety, body-shaming, along with a multitude of other social and fandom issues.
Charlie is a bisexual Chinese-Australian who is also a prominent vlogger. She goes with her long time friends Jamie and Taylor to SupaCon to promote the new movie she is staring it. Along with the appearance of her ex-boyfriend Jason, she has to navigate her new relationship with her longtime crush Alyssa Huntington in the face of fans who loved “Chase” so much.
Taylor is an autistic girl who has a passion for a series called Firestone. She looks up greatly to Queen Firestone, and hopes to meet Skyler Atkins, the actor that plays her, at Supacon. For years, Taylor has had a crush on her best friend Jamie. As the date to college acceptances come closer, her fear of change and worry that her relationship with her friends will be forever different comes to the forefront. Her development over the course of the novel was one of the highlights of Queens of Geek. I could write paragraphs about it.
Both Charlie and Alyssa & Taylor and Jamie were enjoyable couples. As with most Swoon Reads couples, they were sickeningly sweet. Their relationships were also uplifting and supportive. Throughout Queens of Geek, Jamie gave Taylor space and stood up for her. He was mindful of how the world around impacts her, and always made sure that he wasn’t pressuring her into the relationship and that things weren’t moving to fast. I’m fascinated with how public figures deal with overbearing fans, and the intrusion in their personal life. I was pleased that those issues played an important role in Charlie and Alyssa’s relationship. I’m so grateful that their struggle wasn’t hiding their relationship because they were two girls dating. It is such a common, toxic trope and it was so refreshing for there to be a different barrier to their relationship.
Also, Queens of Geek doesn’t shy away from the good and bad aspects of fandom culture. We get to see all the fun things that everyone loves about fandom like going to cons, cosplaying, and making friends while waiting in long ass lines to meet someone who acts in your favorite show. We also get to see the not so great things like how people shame cosplayers who don’t fit the image they want them to, and the toxicity that comes with shipping real people who have real lives and have to deal with a fanbase that invades their personal life.
Non-OwnVoices authors telling a stories about a marginalized characters can never compare to an OwnVoices author telling their own story. OwnVoices stories have power, and Queens of Geek is a prime example of that. Jen Wilde, the author, is both autistic and bisexual. Autistic representation is a rarity. Having authentic stories with representation and encouraging messages like Queens of Geek is so important. While SupaCon, Taylor meets another girl who is on the autism spectrum like her. Taylor and Josie have really meaningful dialogue about their shared experiences. It is the real turning point for Taylor, and showed her that she wasn’t alone and that her struggles didn’t make her a weak person. Their interaction was one of my favorite scenes from the entire book. We desperately need more uplifting relationships alike that in Young Adult.
The representation of anxiety was also done beautiful. Every scene in which Taylor talks about her experiences with anxiety resounded deeply with me. I used to have severe anxiety, and the depictions of it in Queens of Geek felt raw and real. It felt so reassuring to know that someone could feel as exactly as I did and capture that feeling in words perfectly.
While I did enjoy Queens of Geek a lot, I don’t think I liked it nearly as much as other people I’ve seen read it for two reasons. Generally I avoid “geeky” books because they tend to over do the fandom references, which I find mechanical and unnatural. In the case of Queens of Geek, the fandom references were laid on kind of thick. Since I don’t really care for most of the fandoms that were referred, that did not help the situation. After spending years on Tumblr, I have no desire to hear the word “destiel” ever again in my life (but that’s just me). Also, I wanted more out of Queens of Geek. The story simple storyline was one of the aspects of Queens of Geek that made it so charming. However, I do prefer higher stakes or deeper plots. That is why it ultimately didn’t break the 5 star threshold.
If you are looking for an quick fix of geeky Young Adult Romance, then I would recommend Queens of Geek. And even if you aren’t, just read the damn book.
“You know,” Jamie says, still looking at me, “if we weren’t in a pee-soaked toilet stall right now, this would be kind of romantic.”
“Let’s say someone is terrified of heights, and in order to get out of the house every day she has to walk across a tightrope from fifty stories up. Everyone would say, ‘Oh, she’s so brave. She faces heights every day.’ That’s what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Socializing is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most, yet here we are, moving forward anyway.
“That’s not weak.” She reaches out and takes my hands. “We are the brave ones.”
“He breaks away again. “But what about the ground crumbling and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
“Well, if coming to Supacon has taught me anything, it’s that new experiences are always scary, but they aren’t always bad. Maybe this isn’t the part where Indy steps on crumbling tiles. Maybe this is the part where he takes the leap of faith and finds the Holy Grail.
“I’m wired with this need to always know what to expect. Sometimes, this need serves me well. Other times, it makes things harder. A week ago, I thought this needed to be fixed. I thought I needed to be fixed. But now I see differently. I don’t need to be fixed. Because I am not broken. Many unexpected things happened to me at SupaCon. I laughed. I cried. I fell in love. My worst fears came true. And so did my wildest dreams. Before SupaCon, I thought I was just… Afraid. Weird. Awkward. And I was right. I am all these things. And that’s okay. I am all these things. But I am also… Brave. Heroic, Royal. I’m not saying I’ll never be afraid again. I’m afraid right now. I haven’t beaten that. Maybe I never will. Maybe I don’t need to. I’m not saying I’ll never have bad days. Days when anxiety will knock me down. I will have those days. That’s real life. And sometimes real life sucks hard. As long as I have my family, my friends, and my fandom… I’ll be okay. No matter how messy life gets. Because I have a league of superheroes by my side. Some I’ve known for years. Others I’ve just met. Even more who I’ll never meet. I’m surrounded by superheroes. And that means I must be one, too. And everyone knows that no matter what darkness they face, heroes are destined to win.”