Nicola is taking a summer course in archaeology at the Siegel Institute, because she wants to make sure that archaeology is really a field she wants to go into. She expects that confirming her dream of becoming an archaeologist will be the focus of this summer, until she meets Battle.
Battle is beautiful, a minister's daughter, and soon captures Nicola's heart. While helping her new friends deal with their own issues, Nicola has to come to terms with her sexuality, and face her attraction to another girl.
I thought that this was a nice twist on the YA summer romance trend. It has a lot of the same elements as others in this branch of YA, including spending time at another location, in this case an academic camp or institute, it includes making new friends and helping them deal with their struggles, and of course experiencing attraction to a beautiful peer. The twist is that two girls are the love interests, which is a welcome change.
Nicola is a great main character, I find her very relatable and believable because I feel like a lot of her struggles mirror those that teenagers face in real life, and therefore making a connection with her was very easy. Understanding a character's feelings and where they're coming from with their thoughts is important to me because it makes for a more emotional or a deeper read.
Nicola is the kind of character you'd like to be friends with, the kind of person you'd be able to have a chat with and enjoy being around. Battle seems a bit more intimidating or untouchable, with Nicola's descriptions of her beauty and family issues, but she's still a generally likeable character as well. The rest of Nicola's group of friends, Isaac, Kevin and Katrina, make the whole situation seem more plausible as well with their own issues, for example dealing with divorce. They were a great group of characters to read about and I like that over time they changed or evolved, even if only a little bit.
The author's approach to sexuality was well done, with Nicola's struggles and internal dialogue being extremely believable and realistic, and avoiding some of the stereotypical LGBTQ tropes I've come across in other books. The word bisexual was even used, and in a fairly positive way as well, which really impressed me because I feel like multisexual identities are so rarely discussed in an outright manner. The addition of homophobic characters was necessary, in my opinion, to mirror real-life issues that LGBTQ people face and the author delivered on this platform as well. Overall, I am very impressed with this book.
I do take issue with the length of the novel! The author did such a great job, but the book was so short. I wish it had been longer, and that maybe certain issues could have been expanded upon, such as Battle's family life. I'm going to be looking for the sequel and I really hope that it lives up to Empress of the World.
I recommend this book to people looking for realistic portrayals of LGBTQ struggles in YA novels. If you want a short contemporary romance, this book is for you.