Admittedly, I did not enjoy reading My Fairy Godmother Is A Drag Queen as much I had expected. While the dialogue is crisp, often quite funny, it was also unrealistic and none of the characters ever really felt fleshed out and full of nuances. As well, the Cinderella aspect was missing all the magic and warmth that made the source fairy tale so endearing. If anything, I felt like someone had binge watched every episode of RuPaul’s drag race and then tried to force a marriage between several of the characters in there and Cinderella. In the end, it just didn’t work for me.
Story: Chris lives what should be a fairy tale life in Manhattan – prestigious family, gorgeous house, and he’s not bad looking himself. But his family is nearly out of money, his father committed suicide after the stockmarket crash, his social climbing stepmother loves her wine more than her family, Chris is single handedly keeping the family going now that there are no servants any more, and there is a push to marry his stepsister to the high society ‘big catch’ J.J. Kennerly. But a chance meeting on the street with a drag queen with connections allows him to attend the big society ball – and meet Kennerly in person. Turns out, it is love at first sight for the two boys. But how will these two ever get to be together when J.J. can’t come out of the closet and Chris is too anxious and unsure to go after what he wants?
First and foremost, I really disliked how the Cinderella theme was handled. The entire Cinderella story is only loosely used and mostly finished by 25% into the book. There’s no ‘search’ for the owner of the lost Ferragamo and Chris’ identity is never a secret. As well, we have a case of insta’sex as J.J., despite supposedly needing to be cautious, quickly moves in on Chris, blows hot, then backs away fast as the attention is returned. It goes from insta kiss to butt pinching, to insta tearing off clothes. There’s no time spent on emotional attachment, it is pure lust at sight for the boys and, while perhaps more modern, really begs the question of why bother with Cinderella in the first place?
Also problematic for me were the characters. Author Clawson does try to give us more than evil stepmother with idiot children. The stepmother is a pampered princess who has to deal with a reversal in fortune. The stepsister is a social climber but not without a conscience. The other sibling, the stepbrother, is a meathead jock who says whatever comes to his brain, without preamble. He ended up being the most entertaining as a result. There are some good observations on human nature but at the same time, I didn’t believe any of the characters at all. There was a serious lack of warmth and pathos of, e.g., a Becky Albertalli or Adam Silvera novel.
As for the plot – there were several things that really set the wrong flavor for me. J.J. Kennerly being so obviously modeled after John F. Kennedy Jr. was imprudent and a really poor choice. Yes, he was America’s ideal of a prince but I’d still rather have stayed in the fictional realm here without needing to use such an obvious reference to someone recently and tragically deceased. And drag queen Coco Chanel Jones was so perfectly an amalgamation of RuPaul Drag Race contestants that he ended up feeling ‘off’ – never a nuanced whole so much as a construct. Chris himself is all confused bundle of insecure hormones – more of a Marty Stu than a sweet character we want to follow.
The writing is dense and something you need to follow closely in order to get the ‘in jokes.’ It ended up being a chore after awhile and I had to keep going back to reread after missing key points in chunky paragraphs. A stream of consciousness approach did not really allow a reader to get deep into the character of Chris.
I know I’ve gone over the negatives quite a bit. On the plus side, the dialogue is very funny, laugh out loud “Oh snap!” at times. The author definitely knows his subject well. And this would probably make a funny movie if trimmed down quite a bit. Certainly, it wasn’t a terrible read even if I really had to press myself to finish it. I think the big factor, for me, was that it wasn’t magical or fun. It tried too hard to be sharp and au courant – at the expense of heart. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.