After a protest gone horribly awry, a teenager travels to Poland to discover her family’s roots, do some soul-searching, and heal from the trauma she’s witnessed.
Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Roza arrives in Warsaw, Poland to family she’s never even met. While grappling with memories of the events that led her there, she navigates her way through the trauma of the student protest she helped to organize and its horrific consequences. Roza finds herself adrift in a country that may hold possibilities for the future and some much-needed introspection. Stumbling through relationships, a fog of drugs and alcohol, and her musings on the world, Roza’s journey gives her the strength to grow and return home.
In QUEEN OF CORONA, Roza is a no-nonsense teenager from Corona, Queens. Roza’s story, told from a first person point of view throughout the novel, has a unique voice—a voice that engages the reader from the first sentence and doesn’t let go. It’s Roza’s stark honesty that drives her narrative, speaking to her readers as if they’re reading her journal entries in real time. She narrates her story in the same way she talks, and the subtle shift in word choices over the course of the novel show the progression of her character’s journey.
Although the hopping around from past to present events gets a little hard to follow at times, the flashbacks help tell the progression of Roza’s life—experiences that have shaped who she is. Likewise, a lot of the characters who come and go have unique, authentic voices, sharing their own experiences in contrast with Roza’s. This allows a lot of them to jump off the page, becoming fully realized through clever pieces of dialogue, poignant conversations, and Roza’s often witty turns of phrase.
It’s not an easy novel to read, often relentless in its talk of current events. It’s exhausting to be in Roza’s mind, but it’s necessary. QUEEN OF CORONA isn’t meant to be escapist fiction; it’s a commentary on a lot of fears and issues that come with a whole host of consequences, a perspective that needs telling. From issues of police brutality to the school-to-prison pipeline and the dismal state of the New York City public school system, Roza examines everything with an astute, blunt realness that feels incredibly timely for today’s teen activists.