One of the reasons I may have been disappointed with Queen of the Tearling was the sheer amount of hype surrounding this book, and upcoming movie (starring and executively produced by Emma Watson). All the press about this book have raved about the strong female protagonist who is a queen in her own right and does not have the distraction of a love interest (as is very popular in YA novels) while she is trying to run her country, The Tearling.
Though I did not finish the book, I agree with that assessment. It was clear from the first chapters, and even more so in the second. Rather than go on complimenting Kelsea, I will plainly state that the main character was not the reason I put down this book.
The plot moved too slowly for me, and simultaneously, certain events seemed to happen so fast that I felt as though I was missing something. The premise had pulled me in, but the execution did not keep me interested.
However, that being said, there are definitely still merits to Queen of the Tearling. As I said before, Kelsea is being heralded as the new standard for YA female protagonists for her independence. And while I love that she doesn't have a love interest, I think there is an annoying trend of people assuming that a girl or young woman is only strong if she never accepts help and forsakes all forms of femininity. Newsflash: strong is not a strictly masculine or asexual adjective.
The truth is, there are plenty of admirable female characters who are more than a pretty face, but can also accept their female status in stride; e.g. Elizabeth Bennet, Hermione Granger (also played by Watson), Maximum Ride, etc. And many of them depend on at least a few friends—which is fine.
My point is, Queen of the Tearling is making a counter-statement to the oversaturation of weak girls falling for alpha males in the YA category (and arguably in the Adult and NA markets, too).
Also, I am not trying to discourage anyone from reading this book. I still plan to see the movie because if Emma Watson is involved, it must be good. Also, I'm always slightly wary of reviews when choosing my To Read list, so if the book description sounds interesting to you, give Erika Johansen's book a shot.