Book Review – ‘Drag Teen’ by Jeffery Self

A road trip with a sprinkle of glitter!

drag-teen-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

When life’s a drag, you gotta drag it up.

JT feels like his life’s hit a dead end. It looks like he’ll always be stuck in Florida, his parents are anti-supportive, and his boyfriend, Seth, seems to be moving toward a bright future a long way from home.

Scholarship money is non-existent. After-school work will only get JT so far. There’s just one shot for him – to become the next Miss Brag Teen in New York City.

The problem with that? Well, the only other time JT tried drag (at a school talent show), he was booed off the stage. And it’s not exactly an easy drive from Florida to New York.

But JT isn’t going to give up. He, Seth and their friend Heather are going to drag race up north so JT can capture the crown, no matter how many feisty foes he has to face. Because when your future is on the line, you have to be in it to win it, on fraught and fabulous step at a time.  

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I spotted this book on a friend’s blog and instantly knew I must have it! Teen angst mixed in with drag glamour and bitchiness – sign me up. So, it’s easy to see I had some expectations going in to ‘Drag Teen,’ but were they met?

This novel is an easy, fun read. Engaging. A bit too much postulating at times. But contains a nice message, even though, in my opinion, left out a lot of drag culture (and the real reasons people do it.) So while entertaining, not as fabulous as I hoped.

drag-teen-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleJT, our protagonist became annoying a lot of the time – seriously whiny – and that was the major factor keeping me from truly loving this story. It also felt like his motivations for the pageant, and doing drag, were flimsy. JT was also very serious. All the aspects we come to expect from drag – beauty, sarcasm and humour, living out loud… he failed to embody any of these elements, and it was difficult to see even why he wanted to embrace that world. Granted his fascination with RuPaul’s Drag Race is understandable, but I didn’t get the compulsion from the core of his being that he MUST do drag. His narrative was flat. I wanted passion, or wit, or at least an obsession with all things shiny and make-up.

The boyfriend, Seth in an incredible human being, and felt too good to be true. It was nice to see the cool, handsome jock smitten over a drag queen – because that hardly ever happens in real life, but I found myself looking for a fault, something to ground him and make him believable instead of a fantasy. Seth came off as stereotypical in nearly every aspect, and subsequently, a bit of a non-event for me.

The rest of the cast, while interesting, felt somewhat two dimensional.

At the heart of it all – the pay-off I was expecting – the draginess of it all, throwing shade, reading someone, artistic talent in concept and clothing design, and amazing make-up… all the stuff that epitomises drag was either barely there or completely omitted. Some big opportunities were missed to make this an outstanding novel. It is nearly making me want to knock a mark off the rating I’m giving. Though I liked the (small amount of) character development (even though some of it was simplistic.) ‘Drag Teen’ has a positive message, an entertaining plot, and kept me guessing what the conclusion might be right up to the very end with expert tension. So it has all the makings of a good story, but lacked in content and culture.

Additionally, the plot had a little too much happenstance for my liking. Things falling into your lap and coincidence feel like a cop-out. We want characters to overcome adversity, show some grit and passion for their goal. Can you imagine a drag queen in those circumstances – writing gold. But ‘Drag Teen’ missed her spotlight on that one.

I’d still recommend it solely based on the fact that there is such a small amount of literature out there on this subject matter, and feel it needs to be explored more – for the fun, the laughs, and diversity!

Overall feeling: kitch heavy

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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