Magic, reality, and love combine in a tale of love and identity.
Ford (Lily, 2016, etc.) walks several tightropes as he introduces readers to 16-year-old gay country boy Sam Weyward, who is balancing life between his biological family and his created family, the drag queen performers he hangs out with at Shangri-La, the only gay bar around. Sam is from a line of supposedly cursed family members, destined to see the ones they love die—if they fall in love before age 17. When cute, straight, trans Tom Swift enters Sam’s life for the summer, the curse seems to be working in overdrive as losses hit both his families. Ford’s complex and eclectic characters are perfectly grounded in a world tinged with magic: the “Grands,” (Sam’s grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother) are Norn-like weird sisters who see small bits of magic in the world around them. Juxtaposed are the trio of queens who help guide Sam on his journey to find his inner drag queen: Lola, Farrah, and Paloma. Mysterious songwriter Linda and Sam’s hair-metal–loving father round out the cast. Unfortunately, Tom’s characterization as a stereotyped tragic trans teenager distracts from the magic; immediately deadnamed, his body subject to constant scrutiny, Tom’s plotline revolves around trope-y trauma and humiliation to enable the cis main character’s growth. All major characters are implied white apart from Farrah, who is African-American, and Paloma, who is Latinx.
Funny, sexy, and emotionally wrenching, this is a story of growing up. (Fiction. 14-18)