Megan G reviews Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

SupaCon is the place to be for all things nerd culture, and this year, Charlie, Taylor, and Jaime are going. Charlie, a vlogger recently-turned-movie star, is going to promote her new movie. Taylor and Jamie, her best friends, are just coming along for the ride. While there, Charlie must deal with an ever-present ex, as well as a flirtation with her long-time vlog crush, Alyssa Huntington. Meanwhile, Taylor is forced to face her fear of change, both in regards to her future, and to her friendship with Jamie.

I have a hard time calling books “perfect”. I’m an editor, so every book I read I come at it from an editorial perspective. What could I have done with a red pen to improve this book? In the case of Queens of Geek, though, the answer is “not much.” This book is as close to a perfect book as I can imagine. The story is interesting, the characters are engaging and unique, and it actually managed to make me care about the straight couple in a YA book for the first time in years.

Charlie and Alyssa’s relationship is absolutely incredible. They are both popular in their own right, and each a fan of the other, which makes for a very interesting dynamic. Both have also struggled due to past relationship, but the way that this is dealt with is so beautiful and mature. Their scenes together are tender, hilarious, and sexy. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to instantly pick it back up so that I could read them falling in love all over again. Plus, it’s always amazing to read interracial relationships where neither party is white.

Taylor and Jamie have the type of friends-to-lovers romance that feels straight out of a fanfiction, in the best way possible. Jamie is one of the kindest, most supportive friends I have ever encountered in fiction. Everything he does, he does to ensure that Taylor is safe and comfortable, especially since simply being at SupaCon means stepping outside of every single one of her comfort zones. He is the opposite of every hypermasculine, emotionally constipated male love interest that I’ve ever been forced to endure in YA. In fact, Jen Wilde goes out of her way to show how destructive that character can be, by having Charlie’s ex embody all the characteristics of a typical YA male love interest, and showing very clearly that this is not the person you want to end up with.

Taylor in and of herself is an incredible character. She’s autistic, and overweight, but neither are things she is looking to change or overcome. For her, it’s more about opening herself up to new opportunities instead of letting her anxiety control her. She is fat-shamed at one point in the novel, and it makes her feel terrible, but she is fully aware that it is the other girl’s fault if she wishes to judge Taylor based on her weight, not Taylor’s. She also shows incredible pride in her autism, being incredibly excited to find a comic written by an autistic author about an autistic superhero. Her journey over just two days is amazing to experience, especially since her story doesn’t exclusively revolve around whether or not she will get with Jamie.

The only things I would change about this novel would be the timeframe, as two days seems quite short for so much to happen, and Taylor’s Tumblr posts. Not because they are bad, but because, as a user of the platform, I found them unrealistic. First of all, Taylor seems to exclusively use Tumblr mobile, and several times throughout the convention she pulls her phone out and writes posts as long as this review on the spot and posts them from her phone. This is just unrealistic. As well, she uses tags the way that they are used on twitter, with all the words together as one long word, which is unnecessary on Tumblr.

I don’t know if this is something people may be concerned about, so just in case I want to issue this warning: there is an undisclosed age difference between eighteen-year-old Charlie and Alyssa. We are not told exactly how old Alyssa is, only that she attended several years of college, after which she dropped out and went into the entertainment business full-time. It’s uncertain how long she has been in the entertainment business, but we are lead to believe it is at least a year or two, which would put her at twenty-two or higher. The relationship doesn’t feel icky, or like there is an unbalanced power dynamic, but I figured I should warn for this in case anybody may want to read this book, but is uncomfortable with that type of age difference.

Overall, I think this is a book that I would recommend to almost everybody in my life. It’s well-written, it’s engaging, and it has an incredible cast of characters that you will absolutely fall in love with. If you have a chance, pick it up! You won’t be disappointed.

Danika reviews Nico & Tucker by Rachel Gold

When Being Emily by Rachel Gold was published in 2012, it was one of the first YA novels to be from the point of view of a trans girl (although it was not own voices). Similarly, Nico & Tucker is representing a segment of the LGBTQIA+ community not often seen in media: nonbinary and intersex people. Nico is both, though yo is quick to point out that those don’t always, or even usually line up. Nico is a survivor of medical trauma due to being intersex, and Tucker is a survivor of rape, and both are discussed several times in the story, so I would definitely give trigger warnings for those.

This is a sequel to Just Girls, but I think it would work as a standalone. The writing is more functional than anything else, with exposition dropped in wherever it comes up, including in dialogue. This is definitely drawn forward more by the ideas than a poetic style or fast-paced plot. One thing I got hung up on was that the major point of conflict included entirely unnecessary failure to communicate, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. If they had just talked about it, it would have been resolved so much quicker! And considering how savvy Nico is with healthy coping strategies, it was particular egregious.

The strength of the story is in its ideas. Intersex and trans experiences are centred, including a breadth of representation: Nico is not the only intersex character, the only trans character, or the only nonbinary character. This definitely seems to be trying to be an educational text, just as Being Emily was. I can’t speak to the representation, because I am neither trans nor intersex.

Of course, Nico is not the only main character. The perspective swaps between yo and Tucker. Tucker is on her own journey with its own struggles. She was recently raped by her ex-girlfriend, someone she had loved and trusted. She is struggling to cope with that, and feels like she’s alone in this experience, coming from a same-sex partner. She prides herself in being strong, and is finding it very difficult to admit that she needs help to deal with this.

She is also dealing with more of an existential problem around her own identity. “Lesbian” is a label that she identifies with strongly, but she is also attracted to Nico. Is she only attracted to Nico because she views yo as being essentially a woman? Nico also isn’t sure how to handle this, feeling that yo is being misgendered–and that fear is not unjustified. It isn’t helped by the fact that in their queer circles is another lesbian who seems to have appointed herself the gender police, and is quick to dismiss Nico’s gender as well as Tucker’s identity.

Which leads to the depiction of a queer community in Nico & Tucker. They are in university, and have built a network of other LGBTQIA+ people, often around activism. This is a lifeline for both of them at different times: Nico has people to go to who will understand when yo is talking yos medical concerns or gender. Tucker has people who she knows will support her when she is triggered and reliving her rape. This is a great source of support and strength–though it can also be a source of gossip, drama, and pain.

This story shines when Nico and Tucker are together, communicating effectively. They can discuss consent and boundaries. They support each other, and understand first hand having trauma and needing to recognize how that affects their lives.

I would love to see a review of this book by an intersex person (as well as a nonbinary reviewer), because so much of this has to deal with educating about being intersex. I do think this is an important book in LGBTQIA+ literature, and I continue to be drawn to how Rachel Gold realistically depicts queer community, and the inclusion of geeky elements in her stories (Nico & Tucker talks about cosplay a lot, and how it connects with Nico embodying yos gender). I think what I said in 2016 about My Year Zero is still how I feel today: Rachel Gold seems to be doing now what Julie Anne Peters did ten years ago: pushing LGBT representation in YA [and New Adult] forward, one book at a time, making room for even more representative and authentic stories to come.

I have also reviewed all of Rachel Gold’s previous books, so here are the links, if you’re interested: Being EmilyMy Year Zeroand Just Girls.

Danika reviews Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.

I feel a little bit silly reviewing Knit One, Girl Two, because what can I say that hasn’t been said before? Especially considering that this is a novella! So consider this less of a review, and more of a reminder that this sweet little novella exists (and that you can get it for about $2!)

This is a cute, mostly fluffy story that has a wide appeal: Jewish readers, queer ladies (including bi women), and artists will all find aspects that have special interest to them. It was also nice to read about a fat love interest. This definitely felt like a “slice of life” story. It’s realistic, and as if you’re just being dropped into a short period of these people’s lives, but the characters seem to live outside the words on the page, as well.

Both the main characters are cisgender, but there is a scene that shows the queer community that they are in, and it has lots of trans minor characters. They only get a handful of lines, but it was still nice to see that.

As always in Shira Glassman books, the Florida setting is significant. Danielle is a painter, and she is inspired by Florida landscapes. Clara dyes yarn, and she collaborates with Danielle to use the colors in her paintings to design the blends in her yarn.

This isn’t entirely a traditional romance novella: there is a romance, but it’s just as much about Clara and Danielle’s art, or their relationships with their siblings, or their shared love of fandom. If you’re looking for a quick, light, but satisfying read, pick this one up!


Danika reviews Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

This. Was. Adorable. I was between rating this 4 stars or 5, but I couldn’t think of anything that I would change about it to improve it, so I guess that makes it an automatic 5 stars!

Queens of Geek follows two point of view characters, Charlie and Taylor, as well as their friend Jamie. All three are going to Supacon, a big fandom convention. Charlie is a Chinese-Australian actress who is at Supacon both for the fun of it and to promote her movie. She’s also bisexual! Unfortunately, she is still living in the shadows of her ex-boyfriend and co-star, whom the fans would love if she got back together with (even though he’s a real jerk). Taylor is fat, geeky, anxious, and has Asperger’s. She’s excited to experience the fandom that she loves in real life, but she’s also overwhelmed by all of the elements of the con that can increase her anxiety. Luckily, Jamie is there to make everything seem less terrifying. He’s supportive, kind, and funny–and Taylor doesn’t want to endanger their friendship by acknowledging her feelings for him.

That’s a lot of summary, but it’s because there’s so much here that I love! I’ve only gone to a few conventions so far, but I absolutely love the ones that I have been to. The energy has been amazing and sometimes overwhelming. The idea of reading a whole book set at a con was exciting! And Queens of Geek lives up to that, really capturing the frenetic energy of a convention. It also reads like a love letter to fandom (while still acknowledging some of its faults). There are so many geeky references, too! And Taylor posts on Tumblr throughout the book!

As the cover would suggest, this is also about the two love stories of Taylor and Charlie. Although I picked this book up for the f/f romance, I was charmed by Taylor’s friends-to-lovers plot line with Jamie. They have a good friendship, built on trust and support. They also have some solid banter. Of course, I was just as invested in Charlie’s romance! In fact, given her experience with her awful ex, I was desperately hoping that she got a healthy, drama-free love story. Of course, it’s not much of a story with no drama at all, but I still was very happy with where it lead. Charlie meets a fellow Youtube star, and it turns out they are both fans of each other! Their flirtation is adorable, and it’s great to read a book that includes a romance between two women of colour.

Another thing that I appreciated in Queens of Geek is that there is no contrived obstacles to the romances. Typically, I find, a romance has a standard plot: couple gets together -> couple splits up because it’s not the end of the book yet, so the author had to invent a reason to break them up -> couple gets back together at the end of the book. Usually this contrivance is something that a simple conversation between the two would have fixed. Instead, the obstacles that Taylor/Jamie and Charlie/Alyssa face makes sense to their characters. Taylor is reluctant to add another change to this tumultuous time in her life while dealing with all of the anxiety that this change invites. Charlie is dealing with a very public break up and is reluctant to have another relationship in the public eye, while Alyssa’s last relationship was with someone who refused to acknowledge their relationship in public for the entire time they were dating (more than a year). Those are all legitimate positions to hold, and ones that conflict. It makes sense that it takes them some time in the book to work those out.

Did I mention that I read this book in one day? I don’t usually do that, and I wasn’t intending to, but I just kept getting drawn back into the story. I also found myself laughing aloud several times while reading. The banter between both couples works really well, and when there’s a fandom joke thrown in as well, I can’t resist.

Besides all of the diverse elements (did I mention that it actually uses the word “bisexual”?) and geeky fun, there’s also a well-paced plot, compelling romances, and memorable and fully-realized characters. This was such a fun, heartwarming read. Just lovely.