Author: Dan Clay
Narrator: Dan Clay
Audiobook Length: 10 Hours and 41 Minutes
A vibrant and emotional novel from debut author Dan Clay about a boy who turns toward love, self-expression, and drag when the unthinkable happens, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Julie Murphy.
If only Mark Davis hadn’t put on a dress for the talent show. It was a joke―other guys did it too―but when his boyfriend saw Mark in that dress, everything changed.
And now, fresh on the heels of high school heartbreak, Mark has given up on love. Maybe some people are just too much for this world―too weird, too wild, too feminine, too everything. Thankfully, his older brother Eric always knows what to say to keep Mark from spinning into self-loathing. “Be yourself! Your full sequin-y self.”
But Mark starts to notice signs that his perfect older brother has problems of his own.
When the source of Mark’s strength suddenly becomes the source of his greatest pain, the path back to happiness seems impossible. Searching for a way out, Mark slips into a dress to just, briefly, become someone else, live a different life. His escape, however, becomes an unexpected outlet for his pain―a path to authentic connection, and a provocation to finally see other people as fully as he wants to be seen.
Becoming a Queen is a very emotional debut novel by Dan Clay. I loved that Macmillan Audio has the author narrate the story as it allowed Dan to present the author how it was intended to be read. While some authors do not quite capture the narration of their stories, Dan did a great job. Drag has come into the spotlight recently in the United States as a huge political issue and has sparked many protests and bans. In my city, one café hosts drag story time where drag queens read stories to kids and their families. It is a fun time, but there are usually a ton of protests and police there as the threat of violence breaking out from the protesters has happened in the past. This book has a great tie-in to these real-life scenarios as the main character, Mark, is a drag queen and a student, so not only does Mark deal with his drag side of himself, but the general coming of age issues that come up for everyone.
The story begins with Mark putting on a dress for a talent show, however, his boyfriend does not approve. The two break up and Mark begins the healing process. Mark turns to his brother, Eric, who he always relies on to get him through everything. I absolutely loved the relationship between Eric and Mark. Each has their own secrets where they are going through internal struggles, but they were always there for each other. It was a well-written brotherly (and supportive) dynamic. Eventually, Mark meets Ezra and the two become closer. As the synopsis states, there is tragedy in this story, so the book is essentially two sections (before and after). While they do feel like two stories, it does read like life where it is messy. There is a lot of emotion in the story, so it is not a light read, even though there are lighter moments throughout.
Listening to the audiobook, I did not originally know how to feel about the author narrating his own book; however, Dan Clay did an amazing job. He captured the roller coaster of emotions that the reader experiences in the story. There is a lot covered in this coming-of-age tale and I loved his performance. The pacing of the story does start a little slow yet still chaotic until it moves into the latter half. Since there are a finite number of pages, I do sometimes wish that the beginning was shortened a little to make room for more in the latter, however, I would not know what to eliminate. As a debut, this novel has a few rough edges here and there, but it was a captivating story. Overall, I enjoyed this emotional story and look forward to reading more from Clay in the future.
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for the opportunity to read this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**
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