Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


It’s Briar’s first time away from home and she’s terrified. She is worried about flying, about her brother not being there to pick her up, and about getting mugged or in a car crash; she’s afraid of getting kidnapped, of crowds, of public speaking, of having to talk and of being unable to talk all at the same time. The thing that keeps Briar from spiraling is her brother, Beau, who is waiting at the airport in the full drag persona of Bow Regard, with a giant smile on her mouth and a sign with so, so much glitter.

Briar, who thought she’d be afraid of everything, instead finds herself falling in love with everything, even as it’s overwhelming. The Gallery, the bar where her brother works, is a wonderful place filled with wonderful people. There’s Enzo, the bartender, who happens to be in love with her brother; Jacklynn Hyde, her brother’s larger than life drag mother; Achilles, who goes by they/them pronouns and is learning to be a bartender; and Selene, the beautiful young woman with red hair and a knowing smirk who Briar could easily have developed a crush on … if only Selene wasn’t such a horrible monster.

Selene also happens to be Spencer Read, drag king douche who, with a few cruel comments, cuts Achilles to shreds. Spencer will be competing for Drag King of the Year in a few short months and sees Achilles as zero threat. Briar has no idea what she’s doing, but she hotly promises Selene that she, Briar, will be the one to take that crown from her.

Who knew that Briar would spend her summer in New York Briar becoming a drag king?

This is one of those books that had me smiling as I read it, and when it ended all too soon, I was left wanting a sequel, if not an entire series about these characters and their lives together. However, a quick warning before I get into the review. This book deals with some heavy topics. Briar has both anxiety and depression, and there is a moment in the book where she enters into a dark spiral and has thoughts of killing herself. Selene’s last girlfriend committed suicide, and Selene is holding onto a lot of guilt about not answering her last text. These matters are handled with sensitivity and delicacy, but if this is sensitive subject matter for you, it’s perfectly fine to walk away from this book and find another one.

Briar comes to New York from a small town in Texas where she has no friends save her family. Her brother, the person she was and is still closest to, moved away, leaving Briar alone. After a struggle with depression, Briar thought to end her life. Fortunately, her parents were able to get her brother on the phone and he was able to get enough money together to bring her to visit him for a summer in the hopes that she would feel better, and maybe find some joy in her life again.

Beau spends much of the book fretting, protecting, and worrying about Briar. He’s eager for her to find friends, but afraid that she might have a panic attack or another depressive episode, and it leads to him overreacting at times; he’s also a friend and drag mother to Selene, and — knowing her past pain — is also quick to leap to her defense, causing a rift between him and Briar. Beau doesn’t come off all that well in this book, afraid of his own pain, trying too hard and leaping to conclusions without stopping to ask … but he’s trying so hard to be the brother his sister needs, afraid any failure on his part might cause her to hurt herself.

Selene is Briar’s rival — a position given to her by Briar — and … also has her moments. She’s defensive, lashing out at others before they can hurt her first. She’s attracted to Briar, charmed by her and, because of her previous love, sensitive to Briar’s pain. Afraid that she might be the cause of someone else taking their life because she did something wrong, because she wasn’t enough. And I was happy to see that, at the end, their relationship reached a friendship first.

Briar knows she needs help. She’s on the path to finding a therapist, to maybe going on medication, and knows she’s not ready for a girlfriend, yet. She also knows (and Selene agrees) that Selene isn’t ready to jump into a relationship at the moment. However, the two of them love one another and have a decided chemistry; they decide to be friends, to let themselves rest in that moment between friends and lovers until they’re both able to fully and wholly enter into a romance.

Achilles, Jacklynn, and Enzo — along with Selene — quickly become members of Briar and Beau’s extended family. They’re there to support and to cheer one another on, to give advice and a shoulder to cry on without ever passing judgement. Family relationships, both blood related and not, are a strong focus in this book. Briar’s parents are a large presence in her life, as is her younger sister; Jacklynn stands in as a drag mother to both of them, and while Achilles has their own drag mother, they’re just as much a part of this close knit circle.

The constant struggle with depression and anxiety are all throughout this book. Briar can be happy, celebrating or arguing, or even just watching her brother perform and yet … the intrusive thoughts, the paranoia in which she thinks people are judging her, talking about her, looking at her in contempt can be hard to read. Especially when, in the middle of the book, Briar does have a moment where she considers taking her own life. Fortunately, she manages to reach out for help — and I’m pleased to see that there is no instant cure for her depression, no magic glitter that makes it all go away. Depression is something Briar will be fighting for the rest of her life; it’s just that she now has weapons and armor to help her. Therapy, medication, friends, and a community to help her when she stumbles.

This book has amazing messaging, amazing characters, and… well, an amazing set of relationship. Everything and every character fits together so well and so seamlessly. The writing is skillful, light easy to read and yet not holding back or skimming past the heavier moments. For me, this book hit every note and will most definitely be on my year end list. I hope it is for you, too.

During the moments of Briar and Selene I’d find myself smiling as I read at how natural and how adorable they were together — be it as friends or a couple — even when they were thoughtlessly cruel to one another. There was just such a natural rapport and easy, comfortable chemistry that worked for me on every level.