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Empress & Aniya by Candice Carty-Williams

My first blog tour of 2022, and first actual post of 2022 (v unimpressive considering it’s February). I had to tap out for a while because of general social media fatigue and because although on the one hand you can never get enough books, on the other hand when your job is books, your main hobby is books, and almost every segment of your social media is books … after a certain point it feels like you’re about to turn into one. 

However, I adore Candice Carty-Williams’ work and so the opportunity to read and review her first YA novel was a very good reason to jump back into book insta/twitter/etc. The book is ‘South London’s answer to Freaky Friday’, and it revolves around the friendship of two 15-year-old girls, Empress & Aniya, who accidentally cast a spell on their 16th birthday and end up switching bodies. 

To start with, how gorgeous is the cover?! This is definitely a book you’ll want to display on your bookcase – it’s so pretty and compact and well-made, I was obsessed immediately. 

Thematically, the book is a little darker than the description makes out – it touches on issues around class, abuse, neglect, difficult family relationships. But the themes are explored with a light touch, and I would actually say that the book would perhaps be more suited to readers around 11-13 rather than 13+. The book’s main focus is Empress and Aniya’s friendship, and its vibe is wholesome and heartwarming rather than Jacqueline Wilson levels of dark. 

My only issue with it is that it felt a too short. Many of the issues were resolved a little too quickly and I would have enjoyed a slightly slower pace, with time to delve further into the very relevant issues and explore each scene and character in more depth. 

Overall, it’s a very touching novel with lots of heart. I loved the friendship between Empress and Aniya, and the themes are interesting and pertinent. A lovely book that will lift you right out of a winter slump.

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Book Reviews

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

I’m so excited to review this book because I love love loved it!

The book follows Queenie, a 25-year-old journalist, around her life in London where she struggles with mental health, racial, sexual, romantic, and friendship issues. Sound like a lot? It is, but one of the best things about this book is that it’s not afraid to explore very real problems that many people go through.

Some people have criticised Queenie’s decisions and found the book hard to get on with because of that. Certainly, it can be difficult watching a character you’ve become attached to act self-destructively, but don’t we all sometimes? Having made many a self-destructive choice in my life, I enjoyed going through Queenie’s journey and emerging on the other side with her. A book where a character acts perfectly holds far less interest than one where they are flawed, but trying.

I found Queenie’s experience with therapy especially moving. Therapy can be a very harrowing thing to go through, and Carty-Williams articulates it so eloquently. This book manages to expertly explore so many different themes, one of the most significant being what it’s like to be a Black British woman living in London. There’s a scene that many POC will find all too familiar: Queenie’s boyfriend’s family member says a racial slur, and everyone acts like Queenie is unreasonable for being offended. Carty-Williams is excellent at subtly yet powerfully putting to paper Queenie’s experience as a Black woman.

In a time where a record number of young people struggle with mental health issues and POC are only starting to really be heard, this book is essential. It tells us that we are not alone and we’re not the only ones going through it all.

I’m now joining about a billion other people (including the British Book Awards) in saying: if you haven’t read this book already, READ IT!

Also – especial shout-out to Kyazike, best character in the book!