Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

To the weirdos, the geeks, the fandom queens. To the outcasts, the misfits, and everything in between. The days of playing sidekick are over. You are the superheroes now. You are my power, and this is for you.
—Jen Wilde, Queens of Geek

Fangirls and best friends Charlie and Taylor travel from Melbourne, Australia to California to attend Supa Con (a fictional version of San Diego Comic Con), where each girl sets off on her own mission: Charlie, as a YouTube vlogger and actress to promote her first movie and advance her career, and Taylor as a major fangirl to meet the author of her favorite fantasy series. In addition to the pressures presented at their first big geek event (crowds, obnoxious fans, etc.), both girls must deal with their own personal love affairs: Charlie having a huge crush on a fellow vlogger named Alyssa, while having to deal with her co-star and ex-boyfriend Reese at the con, and Taylor who's in love with her best guy friend Jaime, who is also attending the con. Can these two queens of geek survive their adventures in love and fandom?

I was very pleasantly surprised and satisfied by how much I loved the book and its inclusions of various types of diversity and geeky goodness. To anyone who is involved in any fandom or convention culture, this book feels like stepping into familiar cosplay, fitted exactly to the geeky reader's interests and personality. One paragraph on page two describes the atmosphere of any major convention that will immediately leave you smiling with familiarity:

Crowds of cosplayers line the entrances.

I smile at those who look my way.

We pass Batman posing for a photo with Groot, Jessica Jones walking hand in hand with Michonne, and Goku lining up behind Darth Vader to buy coffee. A little girl dressed as Captain Malcolm Reynolds runs towards a group of Marty McFly cosplayers and asks for a closer look at their hoverboards.

My geeky kindred spirits.

Each facet of geek culture is given attention and respect, from comics to the fantasy literature to action films, with a boost of intersectional fan representation presented in its main characters. Charlie identifies as an Asian-Australian bisexual woman, while Taylor is a plus-size autistic woman with anxiety disorder. Each character's identity and background is presented respectfully and thoughtfully, with clear attention to detail and authenticity on the author's part, having done countless hours researching intersectionality. Furthermore, the author herself is #ownvoices, as Jen Wilde identifies as an autistic bisexual woman with anxiety disorder, who has said that "as someone who understands how life-changing and affirming it can be to see yourself represented as a whole person in a positive way (and conversely how damaging it can be to see yourself portrayed poorly, I knew I had to do whatever I could to get these characters right."

Beyond that, the romances in this book are so wonderfully sweet and geeky that it can charm even those who hate the majority of YA romances. Having had her heart broken by her ex-boyfriend (who after reading the book you'll want to break into a thousand pieces), Charlie is hesitant when it comes to love. She doesn't want any potential heartbreak to be tagged on every Twitter feed due to her high-profile media status. However, Charlie exhibits a clear reciprocated interest toward Alyssa, a major online YouTube presence whom she had been admiring both professionally and romantically for years, and with whom she displays a lovely and immediate connection with. Taylor is in love with her other best friend Jaime, for whom she's had feelings for a while, through she's hesitant due to her own insecurities and anxiety. The friendship organically shifts into a romantic relationship, as the two reveal their mutual interest for each other, based on their shared favorite fandoms and close, personal connection (and it's always a plus to see a person with mental illness treated respectfully and adoringly by their partner, which is pretty rare in media to begin with). In my opinion, the author does an excellent job of countering unhealthy relationships dynamics against positive, healthy, and consensual ones based on communication, trust, and common interests, between both a queer couple and a straight couple. And all the relationships are interracial, as Alyssa is a Black lesbian, and Jaime is Latinx.

Queens of Geek is a blessing of racial diversity, queer representation, mental illness representation, and loads of queer qeeky goodness. To anyone who has ever felt alone in their interests, Jen Wilde provides amazing characters who feel so real and relatable that the reader can imagine themselves as them or being friends with them. For anyone who's looking for a light, well-written and diverse read, check it out. I promise you, it'll be worth your while (and it'll help pass the time until the next convention).

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Macmillan/Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends
March 2017
288 Pages
ISBN: 9781250111395