Reader vs Reader: Drag Teen

Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???).  Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically.  They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree.  RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance.  And maybe both.  

In , Andrea and Pam both read

Reader vs Reader: Drag Teen

Debut YA author Jeffery Self takes us on a road trip with an insecure high school senior who has one goal: to be the first in his family to leave Clearwater, Florida, and go to college. The problem is, he has zero means of paying for school -- until his friends convince him to compete in a drag teen competition for a college scholarship.

The Quick Reactions:

Pam: I neither disliked or liked this one. It was more meh for me. If felt like something I had read before. Andrea: I’m neither an up or down this time. It was enjoyable as fluff, but a little forgettable as well.


Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):

Pam: I have to confess that I really felt very little when I finished the book.  It was like oh, that happened.  Hmm.  Why did that happen again? It felt like a very typical gay arc in a teen book, only with more sashaying and makeup.

Andrea: I like the plot of discovering who you are/accepting you can shine, but IDK, maybe not enough meat?

Pam:  Yes.  It’s kind of like JT was told so much that he had to accept himself that he just DID and we don’t really learn much beyond that.I actually felt like some parts were a retread of Dumplin, but in drag.  Esp. the Dolly Parton stand in and the “initiation” to drag makeup at a gay club.

Andrea: But I think those things are realistic as well? I mean, this one was pubbed only about 6 months after Dumplin’, so it’s not like he was copying Also, Drag is HUGE at most gay clubs, at least the ones my friends went to, so I can understand why they that was a logical spot to do it in.

Pam: Oh, I don’t think he was.  It was just something that pulled me, personally, out of the story, because I was like why does that sound familiar … ? The more I think about it, the more I wish some of the extra pages from last month’s book had been transferred to this one.

Andrea: YES. Last month was too long, this one was too short I do like the overall message, but it’s more fluff than hardcore message. Which I mean is completely okay, sometimes you just need fluff

Pam: And maybe that’s something that a teen who picks up the book needs, too.  ? I kind of want all the wigs now, though.

Andrea: I think totally. It’s a fun story that’s not all about coming out or this or that. It’s more about he loves doing drag and just needs to get the courage to do it. I may also kind of loved that he didn’t win, even though he easily could have.

Pam: And I liked that it was specifically about drag!

Andrea: Yes, like I know Dumplin’ didn’t win either, but I always felt like she wasn’t really trying to? She was trying to make a splash. JT wasn’t trying to make a splash at all.

Pam: I agree re: the ending.  He really needed the scholarship money; Willowdean mostly wanted to tick people off. And I’m very glad he still got to go to college!  The losing the competition part was really realistic for me, because not everyone can win what they deserve, because life sucks, but sometimes you find unexpected grace, because life doesn’t always suck.

Andrea: And even though it’s fairy tale-ish I loved that his parents came and said they were proud

Pam: I was so afraid they wouldn’t!

Andrea: Me too! But I did like the “not everything is as it seems” take. It kind of was the theme of the book. It was a good message to have, even though I would have liked just a bit more. So, overall a fun, fluffy book but not one I’ll be raving about. However, I know plenty of teens who I can give this to, especially those looking for something on the lighter side.


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