Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
Earlier this month, I was looking for some books with autism rep for Autism Acceptance Month. I stumbled upon this one on a Goodreads list, and it seemed like a fun read. And while I did have some problems with the writing style, it was a solid romance through the lens of a young Autistic woman!
Enjoy this week’s review!
18-year-old Zoe is determined to turn over a new leaf. After a string of bad experiences in high school, she lands an internship at an online media company, where she writes pieces about her dating experiences—or lack thereof. But when these pieces get noticed by some of her old high school classmates, Zoe must reassess her idea of romance—and if taking second chances is worth it at all.
TW/CW: ableism, police brutality, bullying, sensory overload, misogyny
I found this one mostly on a whim (the quest for good disability rep never ends) and figured that it would be a good read for Autism Acceptance Month this year. And…I’ve come out of it with mixed feelings. I did like it, and I’d say it was a solid read. But I just had such a hard time getting into the writing, and while I loved all of the discussions around autism and disabled identity in general, they often came out very forced.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Zoe was a great protagonist, and she was the perfect fit for this kind of story. Although I wished we could have seen some more personality from her, I loved the journey of self-love and acceptance that she goes on over the course of this book. She had great character development, and her interactions with the other characters felt authentic and genuine. I can’t speak to how accurately her autism was depicted, but as a neurodivergent person, a lot of it felt very authentic, what with the sensory overload and whatnot. Either way, it’s always incredibly refreshing to see disabled characters/stories actually being written by disabled authors, so Kay Kerr deserves a thank you just for that.
There were some great conversations about autism and about disability in general as well in Social Queue! Zoe’s experiences—especially with her well-intentioned but ultimately harmful coworker trying to write about disabled issues—were so important to have in a book, and Kerr handled all of them very well. I loved the emphasis on restructuring the language we use around disabled people, especially removing the context of disability automatically being synonymous with suffering and doing away with the narrative of “overcoming” one’s disability. Social Queue raises so many questions that are so often left out of conversations about disability (and in feminism in general), and even as a piece of fiction, it works as a good primer for somebody looking into disabled issues.
That being said, some of the situations which Kerr tried to implement said conversations about disability came off as forced to me. For instance, early on in the novel, Zoe witnesses an instance of police brutality directed at an Autistic man. While this is a great starting point for conversations about disability and police brutality, it felt…blatantly like a plot device, like this horrifying instance of police brutality was set up just so that these conversations could be had in the book. Even though said conversations stemming from it were worth having, the placement and writing of it just made such a horrifying thing into nothing more than a conversation starter. Didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth.
I think part of why that instance didn’t work was because of Kerr’s writing style. Just like the cover, which looks like it was made in 15 minutes on Canva, nothing about it felt very distinct; none of the characters had unique voices, and most of the descriptions of the plot were mostly concerned with going from point A to point B without much embellishment. I’m not saying that Kerr should’ve gone headfirst with the purple prose, but the writing felt so dry that it needed some kind of embellishment, anything to make it more interesting. Even though Zoe was a solid character, this writing made for a significant amount of disconnect between her and some of the other characters that we were supposed to sympathize with.
Additionally, the romance aspect was iffy for me. I loved the premise of Zoe reconnecting with people from her high school and exploring her sexuality, but since the writing was so bland, most of said love interests were interchangeable to me. The only distinguishing factor was a) one of them was a girl (we love to see characters questioning their sexualities, though!! good stuff), and b) that one of them was a creep. That was pretty much it. Also, the fact that Zoe ended up with Gabe after all that infuriated me. I get forgiving and forgetting, but if a guy makes a WHOLE CLASS PRESENTATION about how you’re “so inspiring” just because you’re disabled, I WOULDN’T EVEN CONSIDER GIVING HIM A SECOND CHANCE. WHY. Apologies aren’t even enough at that point. That’s just disgusting. And I’m glad that they did cover that, but…Zoe. Bestie. You can do so much better than him. There was a lot of “he was mean to you because he had a crush on you, so it’s fine” action in Social Queue as a whole too, which rubbed me the wrong way, but Gabe was the most offensive for me.
All in all, a romance novel that did a good job of representing disabled and Autistic issues, but was let down on several occasions by its bland writing. 3 stars.
Social Queue is a standalone, but Kay Kerr is also the author of Please Don’t Hug Me and Love & Autism.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!