THE QUEENS OF NEW YORK by EL SHEN
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
The Queens of New York by E.L. Shen is a heartfelt YA contemporary novel following three main characters: Jia Lee, Ariel Kim, and Everett Hoang. All three are Asian-Americans from different socio-economic backgrounds. Jia is Chinese-American and works in her family’s restaurant in Queens. Ariel is a super smart Korean-American going to a pre-college program for STEM geniuses while also grappling with the deal of her older sister. Everett is a wealthy Vietnamese-American girl who loves theatre more than anything, but when she goes away to a prestigious theatre camp, she realizes her dreams of stardom aren’t as attainable as she thought.
The Queens of New York is a smart, sensitive book about friendship above all else. Jia, Ariel, and Everett have been friends their entire lives. Their bond is unbreakable and that’s what I appreciated most about this book. I also loved that each girl had their own problems to deal with while also supporting one another in the process.
This is a “slower” paced book, meaning it focuses more on character than plot. There aren’t a huge number of massive plot points that happen, and that’s fine. I liked that this book was more of a character study than anything. Out of all three characters, I think I liked Jia’s story the most. It’s the quieter of the three stories. The stakes aren’t quite as high but I appreciated how so much of her story revolved around the complexity of families and what we owe the people who care for us (and, on the flip side, what we don’t). Nevertheless, I enjoyed all three characters for different reasons. Ariel for her exploration of grief. Everett for her confidence against adversity. All three perspectives are important in their own way and as a reader, I really appreciated it.
Shen’s writing is clear and accessible, making this book an easy one to get into. It’s billed as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but with Asian characters. There aren’t any magical pants here, but there’s plenty of sisterhood and that’s what matters.
You can pick up The Qyeens of New York at the Oreana Library today!