When your (current) dream is to manage the stars, as RuPaul might say, you’d better werk!
Middle schooler Michael Pruitt, 12, white, and gay, wants to be an entrepreneur to impress his paternal grandfather, Pap. Sure, Michael doesn’t really know what he wants to do, but he does know that a good businessperson should always be ready to embrace the next surefire scheme—a strategy that leads Michael to become the agent for Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem, or, as she’s known around school, Julian Vasquez. While managing Julian/Coco, Michael picks up a handful of other acts, hoping that one wins the end-of-the-year school talent show and a $100 prize. It’s an entertaining-enough setup, but the talented secondary characters come across as much more interesting and likable than wheeler-dealer Michael. He is written as an unusual mix of savvy and naïve and has a distinctly odd understanding of contemporaneous culture, casually name-checking the online Yellow Pages, the PennySaver, and the JCPenney catalog but clueless about RuPaul. The plot driver—his desire to make his already-proud grandfather…er…proud—diminishes next to the quickly referenced and also quickly resolved family issues of Julian and the family addiction problems of friend and crush Colton (also white). In addition to Latinx Julian, prominent diverse characters include Michael’s two best friends, an Indian American boy and a black boy.
Drag queens and their many fabulous readers deserve better. (Fiction. 9-12)