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My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen Hardcover – May 30, 2017
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“Clawson clearly loves all of his characters, as they are eloquently drawn, with just as many reasons for readers to love them as faults. What ensues is a fast-paced, riotous, laugh-out-loud yet insightful story of secret love between two closeted gay teens, with Kimberly unknowingly serving as J.J.'s beard. ―Kirkus Reviews
“A classic coming-of-age tale with a twist, My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen is funny, touching, and timely. Clawson explores issues like first love and fitting in with the ease and wit of a seasoned pro. I hesitate to say that this is the most inventive retelling of Cinderella of our time, but if the slipper fits…”―Aaron Karo, author of Me You Us and Lexapros and Cons
“. . . a spot-on modern version for contemporary teens, with an artful balance of serious insights about being true to oneself and riffs on pop culture. . . A fun, lighthearted YA retelling that’s an especially strong choice for collections in need of LGBTQ romances.”―School Library Journal
“. . . Clawson has lots of clever, inventive fun with fairy-tale conventions. . . Chris, who tells the story in his own agreeable first-person voice, is a thoroughly likeable character, as is J.J.” ―Booklist
“Ingeniously plotted with a spectacular cast, My Fairy Godmother Is a Drag Queen is magical excellence.”―Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
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Story: Chris lives what should be a fairy tale life in Manhattan - prestigious family, gorgeous house, and he's not bad looking himself. But his family is nearly out of money, his father committed suicide after the stockmarket crash, his social climbing stepmother loves her wine more than her family, Chris is single handedly keeping the family going now that there are no servants any more, and there is a push to marry his stepsister to the high society 'big catch' J.J. Kennerly. But a chance meeting on the street with a drag queen with connections allows him to attend the big society ball - and meet Kennerly in person. Turns out, it is love at first sight for the two boys. But how will these two ever get to be together when J.J. can't come out of the closet and Chris is too anxious and unsure to go after what he wants?
First and foremost, I really disliked how the Cinderella theme was handled. The entire Cinderella story is only loosely used and mostly finished by 25% into the book. There's no 'search' for the owner of the lost Ferragamo and Chris' identity is never a secret. As well, we have a case of insta'sex as J.J., despite supposedly needing to be cautious, quickly moves in on Chris, blows hot, then backs away fast as the attention is returned. It goes from insta kiss to butt pinching, to insta tearing off clothes. There's no time spent on emotional attachment, it is pure lust at sight for the boys and, while perhaps more modern, really begs the question of why bother with Cinderella in the first place?
Also problematic for me were the characters. Author Clawson does try to give us more than evil stepmother with idiot children. The stepmother is a pampered princess who has to deal with a reversal in fortune. The stepsister is a social climber but not without a conscience. The other sibling, the stepbrother, is a meathead jock who says whatever comes to his brain, without preamble. He ended up being the most entertaining as a result. There are some good observations on human nature but at the same time, I didn't believe any of the characters at all. There was a serious lack of warmth and pathos of, e.g., a Becky Albertalli or Adam Silvera novel.
As for the plot - there were several things that really set the wrong flavor for me. J.J. Kennerly being so obviously modeled after John F. Kennedy Jr. was imprudent and a really poor choice. Yes, he was America's ideal of a prince but I'd still rather have stayed in the fictional realm here without needing to use such an obvious reference to someone recently and tragically deceased. And drag queen Coco Chanel Jones was so perfectly an amalgamation of RuPaul Drag Race contestants that he ended up feeling 'off' - never a nuanced whole so much as a construct. Chris himself is all confused bundle of insecure hormones - more of a Marty Stu than a sweet character we want to follow.
The writing is dense and something you need to follow closely in order to get the 'in jokes.' It ended up being a chore after awhile and I had to keep going back to reread after missing key points in chunky paragraphs. A stream of consciousness approach did not really allow a reader to get deep into the character of Chris.
I know I've gone over the negatives quite a bit. On the plus side, the dialogue is very funny, laugh out loud "Oh snap!" at times. The author definitely knows his subject well. And this would probably make a funny movie if trimmed down quite a bit. Certainly, it wasn't a terrible read even if I really had to press myself to finish it. I think the big factor, for me, was that it wasn't magical or fun. It tried too hard to be sharp and au courant - at the expense of heart. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
The major theme of the story is about coming out and acceptance. Chris is not exactly out, but his sexuality is basically an open secret. He still feels fear over people knowing he is gay, thinking they won't approve of him. For that part, at least, his family is supportive of him, albeit in their weird way. But his secret boyfriend JJ isn't out, and since he is a public personality, he isn't itching to be out either. He is using Chris' stepsister as an unknowing beard, and sneaking around with Chris. Between keeping it secret from the family and from the paparazzi, they have their hands full, but Chris does want more out of their relationship.
I liked Chris as a character - he is hopelessly naive, but also comes across as a doormat most times. His one saving grace is that he still stands up for what he wants out of the relationship - ultimately. J J, meanwhile, just kept rubbing me the wrong way. Dude was so self-centered, it was all about his public image and his political future - as if him being gay is going to affect his running for office some 20-3o years down the line (I am optimistic about a more tolerating future, okay?) and for that, he subjects Chris to what is akin to be like a mistress. Duane, aka Coco Chanel, is funny and entertaining, and I loved that he got his own arc about his gender fluidity and fashion designer dreams than being just a small character in the story. He was over the top at times, especially when it came to Chris's step-brother, which felt like a stereotype? I don't really know, but it felt very cliche - like, of course the drag queen is going to hit on the hot straight guy? Yeah, I wasn't that convinced.
Overall, though, I would say read it if you like to read a queer Cinderella retelling. The romance wasn't that great, for me, though.
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Things I Liked:
This story is laugh out loud funny.Read more
So really this was a Cinderella retelling in loosest definition possible.Read more