Unfiltered Review in Unpolished

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Review by Leah Hayes, writer & illustrator, author of Not Funny Ha Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard

“In Queen Of Corona, we are snatched up and tossed squarely into the squirming, righteous moments of female teenage-dom, then adulthood in New York City.  As if that weren’t harrowing enough, Esterhazy deftly weaves her flip protagonist’s inner conflict about her mixed heritage into the mix.  Setting itself apart from other coming-of-age tales, Queen Of Corona lives fully in the present with its seething commentary on current political events… then quickly snatching us back into the past.

“In this frank, anything-but-chaste novel, we see a young woman who seems to be continuously bracing herself for some imminent, future damage.  She braces herself against anything and everything that could potentially cause this damage:  against school, against boys (and then men), against sex, against female sexuality and then against the idea of women rejecting their own sexuality; against her own intellect, against her own history, against her mother and lineage.  There is a sense of wanting to escape the latent complications of being an intelligent, desirable woman before they arrive.  When actual, physical trauma DOES arrive, it is almost a relief for the reader who has held their breath along with her.  For a character so steeped in alert readiness to battle the very qualities that make her who she is: crisis seems almost therapeutic.

“Esterhazy’s punky writing is also therapeutic.  There is detachment and cursing in healthy amounts, and a sweet bravery that you both respect, and cringe at.  When she declares, “I can be it all. I can be smart and I can be slick and sometimes I can do it all at the same time. I can switch back and forth between all four zones like I’m flipping a pizza pie in a wormhole. No sweat.” You know that you are watching a young woman desperate to define herself TO herself; crafting her own narrative as she goes to anyone and everyone who will listen.

“While it is not entirely new to see a female protagonist searching for herself while traipsing through the jungle of men, career, and other snares (the echoes of Sex In The City haunt the main character as much as they do the pages of the novel)… Esterhazy ups the ante at every turn.  A Fly girl with the intellect of an MIT grad, a relocation to another country, a celebrity lover.

Queen of Corona is a sensitive, sometimes painful, exquisite voyage back to subjects that we THINK we have already handled in our own lives, yet are surprised at the fresh tension with which Esterhazy presents them.  We cannot help but trace and re-trace the lines between high school, home, adulthood, and heritage that she presents.”

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