Review Of 'Queen Bee' - Nina Manning
In the quiet village of Helesbury, Miranda Wallace prides herself on being the most popular member of her small social circle; the perfect friend, the best mum – the queen bee. Until one day, Verity arrives. Cool and indifferent, Verity is everything Miranda isn’t, but she threatens to shatter Miranda’s picture-perfect life. Suddenly plagued with insecurities, Miranda is certain Verity is hiding something. And Miranda knows all about secrets and the damage they can cause, because she’s hiding some of her own. So when Verity threatens to reveal the truth about Miranda and destroy the perfect life she’s built, Miranda knows she has to act to protect the people she loves – even if the results are deadly.
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Even though I understood Miranda's anxiety about being accepted by her peers, I instantly took a dislike to her. She is entirely focused on herself, even when she believes herself to be thinking about her friends, it's still all about how 'they' are making 'her' feel. She is a compelling character, but not necessarily a likeable one and her intensity in her relationships with friends, is frankly a little scary. It felt like I was reading about a small child at times because she seems to think in much the same way as my 6yo does. In fact, her daughter often seems more emotionally mature than she does.
Structurally, having the interviews with the various characters interspersed with the narrative, works really well because it ramps up the tension and the sense of expectation for whatever catastrophic event is coming. That people are being interviewed, indicates the seriousness of whatever has happened and the introduction of various mystery characters and the lack of identification of one of the narrators, all supplement this feeling of tension and anticipation.
Miranda's social media addiction is also easy to understand. I've written various blogs in the past about the pressure we put on ourselves to meet the standards of other people's Instagram and Facebook accounts, when inevitably, their lives are nowhere near as picture perfect as they like to make out. However, even though we know on some level that much of what we see is not real, we still idealise other people's lives and it's very easy to get into the habit of checking social media throughout the day. How many of us have posted things and then spent the next hours checking how many people have liked it? If it's lots, we get a huge sense of satisfaction, if it's less than we expected, we may begin to wonder if people have fallen out with us, even if we know we've done nothing wrong!
For me, my over reliance on social media tends to be caused by one of three things: I'm tired and can't be bothered to do anything more energetic than scroll through my phone; I'm bored and am subconsciously looking for something to either entertain me or annoy me so I have an excuse to vent my frustration; I'm trying to avoid doing work. It strikes me that the same could be said about Miranda - she seems to turn to social media as a way of getting the acclaim she is desperately searching for (and often failing to find) in real life. She is desperate for praise and when she doesn't get it from those around her, she goes in search of it online.
Throughout the first half of the book, it's clear that Miranda has done something awful, but at the halfway point I was undecided whether it was going to turn out to be something truly terrible, or if it would end up being something that would only be understood as 'awful' in the Instagram influencer world. In the end, it's a little bit of both. By the end of the book, however, everything is resolved and all questions are answered and as I left the characters to continue with their lives, I was hopeful that they'd all learned their lessons and would be happier as a result.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.
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