C.G. Drews's Reviews > Four Dead Queens

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
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bookshelves: aussie-authors, read-2019, sci-fi, young-adult

i won't be reviewing this one in full, but I feel uncomfortable if i don't speak frankly about two harmful things:

(1) this book buries its queers unapologetically
(2) it has a society built on eugenics and this isn't called out or indicated to be a despicable crime (in fact it's warmly stated at the end that, since one of the characters has a genetic disability, that they're "doing their best" to fix "genetic flaws" after birth as well. Maybe it'd be great to have a world with no terminal genetic illnesses, but you're also wiping out things like Autism, ADHD, Downs Syndrome, and other neurodiversities and frankly stating people don't deserve to live if they're atypical. You can't put this in a book as a throwaway comment. It could've been called out, but it wasn't.)
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Reading Progress

January 9, 2018 – Shelved
January 9, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 23, 2019 – Started Reading
March 23, 2019 –
page 50
11.57% "ohhh I thought this was fantasy...but it's sci-fi? 🤯"
March 23, 2019 – Shelved as: aussie-authors
March 23, 2019 – Shelved as: read-2019
March 23, 2019 – Shelved as: sci-fi
March 23, 2019 – Shelved as: young-adult
March 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)

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message 1: by Izzie (new)

Izzie oh yikes. i wanted to read this but the fact that the only two queer characters in the book are killed off makes me super uncomfortable. and that comment about eugenics makes me extremely uncomfortable. thank you for pointing it out! i'll be taking this off my tbr


message 2: by BookHugger (new) - added it

BookHugger thanks for pointing out that it has a society built on eugenics because now this is definitely not so high on my to read list :( that's really disappointing!! eugenics is something i'm very passionately against so this is a big fat nope for me (not to mention the bury the gays trope is disgusting)


message 3: by C.G. (new) - added it

C.G. Drews the eugenics topic was so poorly handled that I honestly felt ill. and it's fine to discuss this in books (The Giver definitely did) but the Giver also called it out as a horrific thing, while this book glanced over it and acted like death/disability were the same thing.

(not to mention a character said they were going blind and another character's first response was "but your eyes are too pretty to be blind!" by that point I was just 😒)


Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his) I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who found this book ableistic in some ways! It just felt like an addition to the book that was never explored properly in any way.


Teddy Elizabeth oh yikes, those are 2 major things that immediately turn me off from a piece of media. thanks for the warning!!


message 6: by Claudia (new)

Claudia Fox This makes me really sad. I trust your reviews, so I won't be reading this. Thanks for the warning.


message 7: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Herondale Oh yikes. I was planning on reading this, but now I'm not so sure :/ Thanks for speaking out about these issues.


message 8: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie (patronusaurus reads) That is a Big Yikes. This is this month's Owlcrate so it's gonna be all over the place in the next few months.


Briana The protagonist actually does explicitly state that she thinks the quadrant that's trying to genetically perfect its citizens is wrong and the idea is horrifying, though.


message 10: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina Meli So a dissenting opinion from someone who read the whole book, I agree with the above comment. The main character is freaked out by the fact that the other quadrant is genetically altering their citizens and so I really didn't get the vibe that the author was letting it slide at all.
Also I have to say that I completely disagree on your first point about killing the two queer characters as being a negative about this book. Yes, they may be killed off, but they play a huge role in this book, they were fully fleshed out characters, and their romance was handled beautifully. To me that is more positives than negatives. They were killed off along with other straight characters and they all had a mix of ethnicities which I really appreciated. Also they weren't the only lesbian characters in the book, there is actually a woman court advisor that is also mentioned as having a wife.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I thought this was a really feminist and inclusive book so I wouldn't completely write it off.


message 11: by C.G. (new) - added it

C.G. Drews Nina wrote: "So a dissenting opinion from someone who read the whole book, I agree with the above comment. The main character is freaked out by the fact that the other quadrant is genetically altering their cit..."

Everyone's welcome to their own opinions, but inferring that I haven't read the whole book is very unfair. I did. These are problems I saw. And at the end when [name redacted] talked about the cure for [name redacted] and said there wasn't one because it was genetic, she did go on to say they were trying to cure genetic disabilities after birth as well. Unless that line was taken out of the ARC, then this is still for eradicating a world from disabilities and I find that horrifying.


Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his) C.G. wrote: "Nina wrote: "So a dissenting opinion from someone who read the whole book, I agree with the above comment. The main character is freaked out by the fact that the other quadrant is genetically alter..."

It was in the finished copy as well.


message 13: by Athena (new) - added it

Athena Elizabeth I am still confused, as a nurse, what in the world could possibly be wrong with, (if it could be a relatively harmless procedure), why wouldn't anyone want to cure disabilities after birth?? I am missing why this is a bad thing, it still sounds like a YA brave new world


message 14: by Athena (new) - added it

Athena Elizabeth I am bumping this up on my list so I can figure out what is going on😳


message 15: by Sarah (last edited Mar 25, 2019 06:33PM) (new)

Sarah (A French Girl) Hmmmm, I kind of understand where you're coming from in regards to the eugenics, but this is fiction and in fiction, the world and characters created may have views and morals that the author doesn't endorse. However, for the purpose of the story both can be there and exist. So, from the context of the book, there's no point to endorse anything. It's like if a character or world is racist, would the author need to create another characther who would go on a tirade to explain that racism is bad? Would that racist character who could very well be a MC not be allowed to exist? Frankly, stories are stories, they don't need them to clean or politically correct or even moral. It's enough if they are well-written or coherent within the context written.

Besides, I just don't think that we all should take what author writes so personally or put unnecessary pressure on them. It is not healthy. Plus, we might as stop writers from writing or give them a list of all the acceptable topics.

Note that I haven't read the book, which may invalid my opinion to some. However, I have seen many, many call out lately majorly for YA book and honestly none were warranted. Books aren't meant to be social justice experiment.


message 16: by Briana (last edited Mar 25, 2019 06:30PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Briana I actually did not like the book, for many reasons, and one of them IS that one of the quadrants is represented as some crazy dystopian wasteland where people are genetically altered to eradicate disease but also are forced into specific jobs they are most qualified for, expected to conform to specific behaviors, not have emotions, etc. It does have some Brave New World undertones. But this quadrant has so much dystopian weirdness going on that it could have been its own book. I would agree that the issues are sort of under-addressed because they're not the focus of the book at all; they're a strange side plot in a book that's mostly trying to be a fantasy/mystery. But I think it's incorrect to say that the issues weren't called out. The message of the book is clearly that this quadrant has issues and their actions are wrong. The protagonist specifically acts to undo some of their actions. There's probably room for a whole companion book dealing with these issues further though.


message 17: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina Meli C.G. wrote: "Nina wrote: "So a dissenting opinion from someone who read the whole book, I agree with the above comment. The main character is freaked out by the fact that the other quadrant is genetically alter..."

I wasn't implying that you didn't read the book and I'm sorry if my comment came off that way. I just wanted to clarify that I had read it because a lot of people comment on threads like this about things being problematic without actually reading the book in question. I think that can create a really toxic pile-on culture where people are arguing about situations that they haven't gotten the full context on and like someone mentioned above, that's been happening a lot lately in the book community.


AMY♥Queen Of The Fat Cats♥ I hate YA! bye


message 19: by C.G. (new) - added it

C.G. Drews Athena wrote: "I am still confused, as a nurse, what in the world could possibly be wrong with, (if it could be a relatively harmless procedure), why wouldn't anyone want to cure disabilities after birth?? I am m..."

um because there's nothing wrong with being disabled


message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (A French Girl) C.G. wrote: "Athena wrote: "I am still confused, as a nurse, what in the world could possibly be wrong with, (if it could be a relatively harmless procedure), why wouldn't anyone want to cure disabilities after..."

Yes, but if you can have a better quality of life thanks to a treatment, why not find a cure? I think that's what Athena meant. Think of people with chronic pain. Sure life may be manageable, but it's better if you didn't have pain or little. Same for people with cognitive disabilities, if by getting a treatment, it allow them to better interact with people etc, it would make sense to get a treatment provided it is safe.


message 21: by Athena (new) - added it

Athena Elizabeth What Sarah said ^ There is nothing wrong with it at all but if diagnostics/in utero care ever got to that point... it would be a miracle for the kids and their parents and at least open up earlier interventions. Unless religious aspects are coming into play I think most ppl would opt for the genetic intervention vs having to navigate the 6003 challenges of severe autism, for example, or the frequent illnesses and challenges that come along with other conditions. All hypothetical though, other than further evolving early detection methods I don't think it's possible. I ordered the book so I can read it in full but it doesn't sound like the author meant this in a derogatory fashion

Honestly too I think a lot of authors are as shocked as I am when they find out what snippets offend people now, like I wouldn't think twice about having blown over that topic. All of this is pretty new to the world, like I have been in healthcare for 10 years and never heard the word "neurodiversity" before the original post. These concepts just didn't exist, and authors are learning along with the rest of us old farts (I am 30) what the next generation expects now💁


Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his) Sarah wrote: "C.G. wrote: "Athena wrote: "I am still confused, as a nurse, what in the world could possibly be wrong with, (if it could be a relatively harmless procedure), why wouldn't anyone want to cure disab..."

However, some people with disabilities don't see themselves as disabled. They live with it and that's that. And, from what I've read on disability theory, they think that the abled people are the problem since they don't adapt and put them up on a pedestal for doing everyday things. But, there's nothing inherently wrong with being disabled. I've read some fantastic books and journal articles, and watched a great TedTalk, about this topic.

When I read the book, personally, it rubbed me the wrong way. I doubt the author meant harm by it, but it came across as bad to me as a reader.


message 23: by C.G. (new) - added it

C.G. Drews ok wow I thought and thought about this thread all night and if I would respond or just leave it. But I'm actually shaking right now.

I am autistic. Every time an abled person appears to say "life would be easier if disabilities were cured" you are saying your life would be easier. Also can you sit down and take a good long look at history? Almost every invention that you enjoy was (most likely) created by someone who was neurodiverse. The very very SECOND you cut out neurodiversity and cognitive disabilities, you are stagnating the entire world because -- guess what -- the universe thrives only because humans are different. It's despicable to say that someone doesn't deserve to live just because they're different to you.

Yes there are downsides to having a disability. We struggle and we suffer and a lot of us would like relief for certain aspects. But a lot of the struggles for neurodiverse people, particularly, is because abled people are trying to crush us into their world. Let autistics design the universe: I can guarantee you, we'd be thriving.

Of course different disabilities deserve different discussions. Living with autism is different to living with chronic pain. Being deaf is different to having cystic fibrosis. But the fact that a lot of you guys are just meshing them all together is also disgusting...being autistic or deaf or blind is NOT the same as with living with chronic pain.

But put this in perspective, please. You're literally saying you'd rather people like me were murdered before we were born (changing genetics of most neurodiversities means personality wiping that person fyi) than exist in the world with our unique perspective. You're saying a deaf person is less valued to society and better of dead just because they don't communicate like a "normal" person.

All this saying though...the horrible way this conversation has turned has NOTHING to do with the book. So I think this is over and done. Everyone here advocating for curing disabilities and eugenics needs to go away and take a good long look at their ableism. I'm frightfully, frustratingly disappointed I even had to read this hate towards neurodiversity and disability.


tl;dr
In summary: the book = did not cover eugenics with nuance and the language it used was ableist (ie: reactions to disabilities being "but you're too pretty to be disabled" is a place to start). It didn't condone eugenics but it didn't handle it well at all. Plus killing all the main queer characters is wrong.

This thread = disappointing to the point where I am shaking and despairing for a universe that doesn't see the value in diverse thinking. Please go read The Giver, go read A Wrinkle in Time, and how stark and dead their universes are where everyone is "the same". Go read some of the hundreds and thousands of books written by neurodiverse people. Go read about Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, Michelangelo, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tim Burton, (just to name a few...) And then tell me you want a world without these people in it.


message 24: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen Hi Cait, I love that you speak out about your own experience with autism, and I'm so sorry you're getting terrible comments about this. Sending you lots of virtual cake <3


message 25: by Cassidy (new)

Cassidy (Reminders of the Changing Time) C.G. wrote: "ok wow I thought and thought about this thread all night and if I would respond or just leave it. But I'm actually shaking right now.

I am autistic. Every time an abled person appears to say "life..."


Brava, Cait! You're fucking amazing, let me tell you that right now. Every single word in this post is absolutely everything I was thinking and wish I could have put into words.
Also, I'd like to add to one thing: the theory of eugenics had its big break during the height of Nazism. Hitler and those guys looooved eugenics... so people really have to think about who they're supporting when they say things like, 'if-we-can-kill-disabled-people-off-before-birth-why-shouldn't-we'.
Eugenics, and this consequent line of thinking, places different groups of the population into a hierarchical pyramid (with normally white, straight, Christian, wealthy, able-bodied men at the top) that only measures them on a perceived nonsensical sort of value that has no bearing on real life.
I mean, do we really think people are better off dead than deaf? Or blind? Or autistic? Like Jesus fucking Christ, has the world gone mad???


message 26: by Cassidy (new)

Cassidy (Reminders of the Changing Time) P.S. No matter how well drawn a queer character is, if they are the only representation of queer characters in a piece of media (throwaway lines/background characters don't count) and they end up dead by the end of it, then it falls into the bury-your-gays trope.


message 27: by Cassidy (new)

Cassidy (Reminders of the Changing Time) Also, Athena, if that is how you view disabled people, I would consider another profession


message 28: by C.G. (new) - added it

C.G. Drews Thank you, Karen and Cassidy. 💛💛


message 29: by Allison (new) - added it

Allison Ruvidich I’m so sorry for this thread. You are articulate and brave and very generous with your energy and words.


message 30: by R. L. (new) - added it

R. L. Carlo I am sorry about the turn this thread took. You impressively articulate yourself in everything you write but holy hell this was amazing. You shed light on this world.


message 31: by evi (new)

evi Everyone in this thread needs to learn about the social model of disability in comparison to the medical model and also get off your review. I’m so sorry, Cait, hugs from this autistic friend.


Kelly (Diva Booknerd) What the hell is this going on? Write your own damn review if you feel so strongly in favour of a book rather than try to debate another reviewer by encroaching on her space. Especially her space as someone with Autism.

Now bugger off and find something more productive to do with your time.


message 33: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Herondale @Athena did you seriously just say that it would be a miracle if people with disabilities didn’t exist?!? I just...I have no words. But can I just say that, as someone who isn’t physically or mentally disabled (unless you count mental illnesses, but I know that line is really blurry), I wouldn’t trade my little brother for the world. He has level 3 ASD, meaning he requires a high degree of support (or is “low functioning”, but I’m not about to get into why functioning terms should die), and is nonverbal. Meaning he does have to deal with the struggles of being severely autistic. Because the way our society was built wasn’t catered to the way he thinks like it was to the way neurotypical people do. And even if it was, I’m sure he would still need some support because there are things he has trouble with. But if you saw that kids smile, you would know just how happy he is, not just despite his autism, but because of it. As for my family’s struggles with supporting him (and the fact that avoiding the family’s struggles was your main concern here is a whole other issue I’m not going to get into), well, they’re different to the struggles that my mum goes through raising me and my other brothers, but that’s how the world works. No kid is perfect and easy to raise. Just cuz my brother needs extra support in areas other kids might not doesnt mean he shouldn’t exist. And this isn’t even an issue that would only affect one of my brothers, because another one of my brothers is dyslexic and has ADD. Should he not exist either?? What, because it took him a little longer to work out how to read, and he has trouble focusing and staying still for pictures? I’m sorry, I just...I don’t know about anyone else. Maybe people would be better off without disabled people in the world (though I highly highly HIGHLY doubt it), but I do know the MY life would not be better without my brothers. Because they have taught me so much. SO much. My youngest brother is the happiest and sweetest kid I know, and as long as he’s in an environment where he can get the support he needs, he thrives. Maybe not in the same way other kids would thrive, but still. And my second youngest brother loves reading. He struggles with it a lot, but he perseveres because he enjoys it, and I’m honestly so proud of the people they’re both becoming. And you know what? Yeah, there are some people who would rather interfere to prevent their kids from having a disability, but there are also families who throw out, abuse, or even murder their autistic children because their brains work differently (another big issue that really should be talked about more that I’m not gonna get into). It’s these people, who refuse to accept that diversity is NEEDED in our society for us to grow, that would be utilizing this technology the most. And you know what? They’d be missing out.

@Cait first of all, can I just say that I appreciate the way you stand up for yourself and other people with disabilities so much. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for you to read the comments on this post and I hope you know that you are loved exactly the way you are, not despite your autism, but because of it, because it’s part of what makes you you, and we all love you (seriously, your reviews a freaking hilarious and you’re so sweet omg). I completely agree with everything you’ve said in this comment section and in your post and respect your decision not to rate or review this book because of the problems you had with it. You articulated everything in a way I wish I could (instead of being the emotional mess I am no doubt coming off as right now lol), and I just want to thank you again for making me aware of the issues within this book. I hope you’re doing well, and have a great day.


message 34: by Iris (new)

Iris YIKES. This book sounded good, but there's no way I'm reading it after seeing this.
Also just wanted to let you know I'm sending you lots of love and support. The comments on this thread are a mess, and I'm super proud of you for speaking up about this <3


message 35: by C.G. (new) - added it

C.G. Drews I'm so emotional reading these supportive comments, you all. Thank you so so much, and so deeply. 😭💛


message 36: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Thank you for this review. I rarely come across anyone on Goodreads calling out ableism and eugenics. I feel that I’m often alone in this, but I know I’m in a very small corner of Goodreads, and the YA reading community as a whole.


message 37: by K M (new) - rated it 4 stars

K M Tanner While everything you have stated about the book is factual I did not see it as the author endorsing it. However, it is interesting to note that in the acknowledgements she does thank her behavioural optometrist who she calls her “HIDRA” and thanks for saving her ability to read and write. So I took it in a completely different way and saw Varin as her “ownvoices” character (for want of a better word). I 100% agree that we should always call out ableism and crappy LGBT tropes whenever we can however I think this is going to read very differently to some people. I personally thought the MC called out the horrifying eugenics for what they were. Sure, it could have been done better though, but that’s not what this book was about.


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