Martin McLean, you’d better work it.
Mixed-race (Afro-Cuban and white) Martin McLean’s seventh grade year starts out with a bang. On his first day, Martin has a panic attack in math class when a comment made by a bullying Mathletes teammate makes Martin wonder if he’s gay. Sensing this conversation might be on the horizon, Martin’s Afro-Cuban single mother calls in her brother, Tío Billy, a gay theater producer and sometime drag queen who has been a strong male figure in Martin’s life. Billy, sensing the need to help Martin discover a broader community than his school peers provide, takes Billy to an LGBTQ–friendly cafe that’s hosting an all-ages drag competition. Bit by the showbiz bug, Martin wants to enter only to realize that it’s on the same night as the Mathletes’ regional championship. What’s a queen-in-training to do? Overall, Zaczek tells an amusing story that’s bursting with diversity at every turn. Martin doesn’t have the snap of Tim Federle’s Nate, but his often naïve approach to life will attract fans of Richard Peck’s The Best Man (2016). Die-hard fans of drag and RuPaul’s Drag Race may spot thin plot points now and then: Why isn’t Martin YouTubing makeup tutorials? Does he really not know about RuPaul? Readers new to drag culture will most likely overlook these points and enjoy Zaczek’s sweetly crafted world.
A tasty treat. (Fiction. 9-12)