Title: Nail Polish and Feathers
Author: Jo Ramsey
Publisher: Harmony Ink
Characters: Evan Granger, Mo, Holly,Imogen
POV: first person singular narrative
Sub-Genre: young adult
Sixteen-year-old Evan Granger has no problems with being gay. Despite his mother’s objections, he wears nail polish and makeup to school and pursues his goal of becoming a professional drag queen.
TV drag star Taffy Sweet gives encouragement and Evan’s cousin Holly tries to protect him, but school bullies abuse him so badly because of his sexuality and the girly way he dresses that he ends up at the hospital emergency room. After that, even his new crush, a closeted football jock named Moe Garcia, is unhappy about Evan’s choice to live his life openly gay. But even in girly clothes and nail polish, Evan is a force to be reckoned with, and he soon shows the bullies—and everyone else—that beating a drag queen up does not mean the queen is beaten down.
I’d been looking forward to this book since I first saw it listed on DSP’s coming attractions page. The main reason it appealed to me is because the m/m genre and even the YA LGBT genre are almost completely void of books that feature effeminate protagonists. Even on the rare occasion that authors dare to include less-than-macho main characters or love interests, they get lambasted with criticism about writing “chicks with dicks” or “girly boys”. I was thrilled to see that finally the tide may be changing and we might start to see some stories where the gender roles are not so clearly delineated.
Instantly I fell in love with the main character Evan. He’s feisty, self confident, sometimes mouthy. I envisioned him as having sass and style and a whole lot of self pride.
As could be expected, Evan was a target for some really hateful bullying and outright physical abuse in his school. Parts of the story are very heartbreaking. He has a pretty good support system with his cousin and some of his “geek” friends, but of course this is not enough to protect him from the most persistent and vilest bullies in the school.
I was glad the author showed how Evan repeatedly stood up for himself against the bullies. There is this myth that all a victim has to do is stand up against their bully one time and the problem will be solved. This is just a way of blaming the victim and it’s a belief that could not be further from the truth. Most bullies specifically target victims who are weaker them them physically. So they are not going to cower away when the victim stands up to challenge them. They welcome this. It’s another chance to humiliate the victim.
It’s not enough for the victim to stand up for themselves. The bystanders must also stop standing by and start fighting back. The authority figures must also intervene and take responsibility for the safety of their students. I think all these factors were presented within this story.
One thing in particular that I appreciated was how Evan often felt bullied by the people who were on his side. His parents, school officials and even his boyfriend urged him to stop being so girly. They told him to stop wearing the nail polish, feather boas, and women’s clothes…and then maybe he wouldn’t get bullied. After all, wasn’t he just asking for trouble? Again, they were blaming the victim.
Evan was brave. He was determined and fearless in a way that most macho men do not come close to demonstrating. He truly was a hero.
The ending of this story tore me up–not because it was sad or disappointing, but because it just struck an emotional chord. Honest to God, I really was mess. I just think this book is absolutely spectacular.
Having said all this… why not a solid five stars? Okay, I don’t want to come across as being a know it all or as being knit picky. But there were a couple minor issues I had. One was with the pacing of the story. The entire plot spanned only about five or six days, and it was very detailed with a lot of unnecessary minutia. I thought all of that could have been tightened and the time frame of the story could have been spread out over a few months. Most stories are presented in scenes, but this one seemed to be one very long scene where every thought, conversation, action, etc was described.
Secondly, I wish Evan had explained to both his mother and his boyfriend (Mo) that his desire to wear women’s clothes and makeup and ultimately become a drag queen did have a connection to his feminine side. He said it was because he liked looking pretty and entertaining. I think it’s more than that. This doesn’t mean I thought he was transgender. I just think some gay guys (a lot of them actually) do feel more comfortable expressing their feminine side. It comes as naturally to them as all the crude, macho behavior does to the butch guys. It’s just part of who they are. A matter of identity.
I think maybe in this case, that might be something Evan would understand and be able to express better as he gets older. In the story, he’s just sixteen. Maybe he doesn’t really know exactly why he loves watching the drag queens and putting on the nail polish. He just loves doing it because it feels right. It feels authentic.
So yes, this is an incredibly long review. Sorry. But I think the book is worthy of the attention. I loved the story, the writing, and most of the main character Evan. What an amazing job by this author! This is really a worthwhile read.
Reviewed By: Jeff