From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—In 1990s Tampa, a week after Johnny's 13th birthday, his father dies in a horrible auto accident, his mother shuts down, and the boy is left to cope for himself. While somehow managing to maintain his grades and pay the bills, he also takes up the goth lifestyle and begins drinking so heavily that by 16 he ends up in a hospital from an accidental overdose. After a stint in rehab where he first hears and falls in love with singer Debbie Harry, Johnny is shipped off to live with his paternal uncle in South Carolina. Bullies at Langley Prep taunt him because they think he is gay, but with his supportive new girlfriend, Maria, and understanding Uncle Sam, Johnny finally realizes that he has more than a fixation on the performer. He wants to sing and dress like her. Maria encourages him to enter a competition as Debbie Harry at a drag club in Atlanta, and his uncle reveals surprising details about his father. With such a problem-heavy novel, at times the book comes close to overpowering the real "problem"—Johnny's transvestism. Still, having a straight, cross-dressing protagonist is groundbreaking YA fiction.—Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield
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Debut author Brothers tackles the topic of teenage transvestism in this ode to ’80s music. After a stint in rehab where the music of Blondie becomes his recovery touchstone, 16-year-old former alcoholic Johnny is sent to live with his uncle to start anew. School bullies call him “faggot,” but eyeliner-wearing Johnny knows he’s not gay because he’s smitten with Maria, a Goth chick who shares his love of ’80s punk. Maria helps him explore his need to cross-dress by encouraging him to enter a drag contest as Debbie Harry, while Johnny’s unconditional love helps her come to terms with past suicidal impulses. With Maria’s support and his family’s gradual acceptance, Johnny learns to proudly embrace his inner Debbie. Though the story takes time to build momentum and the prose occasionally slides into cliché, this compelling and ultimately uplifting novel fills a niche in the growing body of GLBTQ literature for teens. Offer this to groupies of James St. James’ Freak Show (2007), Cecil Castelucci’s Beige (2007), and Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish (2007). Grades 8-12. --Jennifer Hubert