Drag Teen - Jeffrey Self

A fantastic, fabulous, funny YA debut from Jeffery Self, one of the gay icons of the YouTube generation, that follows one high school student on a drag race to his future.

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.

Giiiiiiiiiiirl!!! This book is A-MAZE-ING!

Equal parts anxiety-inducing and hilarious, Self's book will entertain you and make you think about what it means to love yourself, be yourself, and by golly, live the life you want to live. There's cliche and camp, heartbreak and hilarity, and the antics of the cast of characters will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The book tackles some pretty interesting and necessary topics, including misogyny and fat shaming in the gay community, body image issues, and gender performance that isn't linked to gender transitioning or trans issues at all, for that matter. There aren't that many books that deal with drag performance at all, for that matter, so this is an important book to add to the canon of queer YA for that aspect alone. Plus, have I mentioned that it's funny?
Seth's house was the kind of house that was always cozy and clean, with the walls covered by smiling family vacation photos from fancy exotic places like Charleston, South Carolina.
Drag Teen has a few issues, in my mind, including the slight lack of engagement with Seth's "in"-ness at school and in the community. Being "in" has to have some difficulties associated with it, and though I know Seth wasn't the focus of the novel, it would have been interesting to have a bit more of his lived experience present within the text, rather than just the few moments in which he reveals things to JT. There are also moments in which the trope-y-ness is a bit much, though not to the detriment of the book as a whole.
Being a gay kid in this decade of equality and anti-bullying and all that stuff that gay celebrities liked to talk about on TV had so many advantages, but one of the biggest disadvantages was that I couldn't blame why I felt like an outsider on being gay anymore. Gay was in, but that didn't meant that all gay people were. Seth was very in. I, however, suspected that I never would be.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I think Self did a fantastic job writing the experiences of a drag teen trying to find himself in a small town in a conservative community, with only his friends and RuPaul's Drag Race to motivate him into creating a new future for himself. Plus, the cover design is awesome; the bright colours from the dust jacket and the hard cover will draw the eye of many adventurous readers.



  1. I came back to this post to see what you had to say as I'm about half way through and considering it a DNF! The tropes do feel plentiful enough that they are a detriment, and the dialogue is soooo clunky! I want to like it more than I do, but all I can think about is the fabulous "Freak Show" by James St. James. Trying to read this as a teen, though, not a book-nerd adult :)

    1. Fair enough! It's definitely not a book for everyone. And yes, I did love "Freak Show" :D

  2. Well, I just had to finish it :) The last third is very redeeming and I'm glad I didn't totally ditch it, lol.


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