Publication Date: 04/25/2017
Themes: LGBT, Gender, Coming of Age
Age: 14+ years old
Pages: 272 pages
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 nonexistent. After-school work will only get JT so far. There's only one shot for him -- to become the next Miss Drag 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, one fraught and fabulous step at a time.
"If there is a hint of Cinderella in this charming story, it s Cinderella in a well-realized real-world setting with appropriate ups and downs, joys and sorrows." -- Booklist, starred review
Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old JT Barnett lives a humdrum existence in Clearwater, FL, working in the family gas station, drifting through school, and dreaming of fabulous days to come. His one attempt at drag led to public humiliation in a school talent show, so he is reluctant when Seth, his wildly attractive, overachieving boyfriend, encourages him to enter the Miss Drag Teen pageant in New York City. The prize of a four-year college scholarship ultimately convinces JT, and after lying to their parents, he, his best friend Heather, and Seth embark on a spring break road trip that leads to fights, honest reckonings, and encounters with a cast of remarkable personalities. With the exception of spiteful Tash, the diverse group of pageant contestants offer JT acceptance and a tantalizing glimpse into a brighter world. This joyous, life-affirming novel moves at a brisk pace, hitting the perfect balance between action and introspection. The sympathetically drawn characters—Heather struggles with fat prejudice, impossibly perfect Seth is hiding a secret, JT is riddled with anxiety and self-doubt—are appealingly authentic. While their world is not entirely free of bigotry, homophobia refreshingly does not define the boys' relationship or lives. The only false note is the resolution of the rivalry between JT and Tash, which feels a bit too pat. Pulling back the curtain on the glamorous world of drag, this novel explores universal themes of family, friendship, and identity with verve and panache. VERDICT A first purchase.—Laura Simeon, Open Window School Library, WA
About the Author
Jeffery Self is a writer, actor, and vlogger. If his face is familiar, it may be because he's appeared in numerous films and television shows, including 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, and 90210. Or you're one of the millions of people who've viewed him on YouTube. Or you used to date him, or sit behind him in bio class. Drag Teen is his first YA novel.
For more about Jeffery, check him out on Twitter at @JefferySelf and online at jefferyself.tumblr.com and www.youtube.com/user/JefferySelf