Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Published March 14, 2017
An enjoyable light read that can be finished in a couple of hours, Queens of Geek was a refreshing bridge book for me between the intense world building of City of Miracles and dense science-fiction novel The Three-Body Problem. Set over a weekend at SupaCon, the story is told from two perspectives, that of shy best friend Taylor who dreams of meeting the author of her favourite series of books, and her best friend Charlie, a vlogger and actress on the rise who is dealing with the fallout of a bad breakup, even as a new crush enters the scene.
YA contemporary is not usually a genre of mine, but as a card carrying geek who has attended Fanexpo for the last few years, I found the premise interesting. Sure enough, author Jen Wilde’s SupaCon setting will excite readers who recognize the positive environment and passion that a Con setting can have. It’s the kind of magical place where you can ride an escalator with Alexander Hamilton and pose for a picture with him and King George III in your Hamilton shirt. The kind of place where a moderator announces that the next question to Alan Tudyk will be the last and you watch Jesus Christ cede his place in the line to the girl behind him, who just missed out on getting to ask Nathan Fillion a question at another Con. And then, due to popular demand, Jesus getting to ask his question as well and walking away with a tube of signed hotel toothpaste (Tudyk was giving everyone who asked a question a gift, but these were primarily signed items from his last hotel room – another attendee got a pamphlet on zip lining), to much laughter.
Wilde does an excellent job of capturing the excitement and intensity of the convention environment, and she fills it with equally interesting and diverse characters. There’s Charlie, a Chinese-Australian bisexual actress and vlogger who is usually full of confidence in herself and her friends, but is dealing with wounds from a very public breakup and afraid to put herself out there and get hurt again. Charlie’s P.O.V. is so focused on her romantic relationships past and future (in the form of awful co-star ex Reese Ryan, and cool not-so-one-sided crush Alyssa Huntington) that I was disappointed we didn’t see more of her friendship with Taylor though. I understood that Charlie’s work gets in the way of them spending the whole weekend at SupaCon together, but I was disappointed that the best friends only share a few scenes over the whole book.
In her perspective chapters Taylor is often the shy best friend, but she lights up when the Firestone series of books and movies are involved. Separating her from the more self-assured Charlie provides an opportunity for Taylor to make friends of her own and to grow closer to Jamie, as well as to standout in the Con environment for her handmade Queen Firestone costume, I just wished we had seen more of her friendship with Charlie directly instead of through group message.
There are aspects of both characters, and of other interesting side characters, that readers can identify with. As a shy introverted person with some anxiety, I definitely empathized with Taylor, but I also felt that the book was targeting a different audience than my thirty-year-old reasonably comfortable in my own skin self. I think the positivity, representation, and broader message about how you can be your weird self and be accepted and loved is incredibly important though, especially for teenage readers who see themselves in these pages.
I enjoyed the book and the diverse representation it includes, but for my personal tastes it was a little on the light side, and I found the plot pretty thin/predictable with there being few obstacles to keep the plot interesting and most of these easily and effortlessly conquered. Still, it was a fun way to spend a few hours and I enjoyed seeing geeks depicted in such a positive way.