I was lucky to receive an advance copy of Martin McLean, Middle School Queen so early last year that I completely forgot to review it here on the blog when it came out in January. But Alyssa Zaczek’s delightful debut is not to be forgotten or skipped in any way, shape, or form: it is dazzling and I love it with my whole heart.
Middle school is terrifying and confusing, and rightly so. Martin, surrounded by people who are excellent at expressing themselves–and being themselves–has always had trouble finding the words to express himself. But his uncle introduces him to the world of drag, where he learns to express himself by becoming someone else, a different version of himself: a braver, more confident, stronger version of himself. (If I use the word ‘himself’ any more times in this review, do you think it will lose all meaning?) But telling everyone else about his newfound persona is hard. And when his first big drag show and the biggest Mathletes competition of the year fall on the same night, Martin realizes he has to tell his friends about who he truly is… no matter how terrifying that is!
Martin is one of the most relatable seventh graders I’ve encountered in recent fiction. Quiet and unsure, but bursting with heart, this kiddo is an absolute delight. Watching him gain confidence and learn to balance school, friends, drag, Mathletes, family–all at the same time!–was a flashback to my own seventh grade existence, when everything was overwhelming, but I somehow made it work.
Don’t sleep on this book, friends. The casual diversity and representation of ALL kinds is fantastic, the focus on friendship and family is amazing, the conversations about exploring and discovering yourself and who you are and how you want to present that to the world are beyond wonderful–and really hit home for those of us who didn’t know what the heck we were back in middle school. And oh wow, Holy Normalizing Queerness for Kids, Batman! Martin brings to light the questions of identity that a lot of kids go through but perhaps don’t have the words for, and it made me wish I’d had a Martin when I was 12.
This book is fabulous, and everyone should read it. Especially kids. Especially kids.
My heart is full of joy just thinking about it. I just. *hearteyes* repeating infinitely.
You can purchase Martin McLean, Middle School Queen online or call the store to reserve a copy.