A popularity contest turns deadly in this gay mélange of Mean Girls and Heathers.
Tommy Rawlins lives in a material world at his Willows, Wisconsin, high school. The student body—Tommy included—is obsessed with an A-list clique known as the Kens. With Botox in their faces and glitter in their veins, the Baphomet-worshipping Kens are 1990s Earring Magic Ken dolls made flesh. And they’re all gay—well, everyone except Ken Carson, who is still in the closet about being straight. The queen bee of the Kens elects Tommy—one of the school’s resident misfits—to be the newest member. At first, Tommy feels #blessed. But when it turns out that the Kens’ New Edition isn’t quite the model they were hoping for, the foursome’s kiki turns into an all-out social war. Canadian author Reid’s (When Everything Feels Like the Movies, 2014) sophomore effort is biting social commentary. Though some especially cringeworthy omniscient narration exposes the Kens' privilege around race and other topics, the results are often insensitive and in poor taste (e.g., when a drag queen named Sandy Hooker performs, "the crowd screams like they're in a school shooting.") Still, the novel’s critique of societal obsessions with media and self-image, combined with its brilliant takedown of queer culture’s “alpha gays,” makes it a worthwhile read.
Reid reads consumer culture to filth and the result is (mostly) lit. (glossary) (Fiction. 13-adult)