And speaking of Lisa E: James St James, the man who sort of nurtured her back in ’80s New York when he was just a frail slip of a thing really, isn’t doing so badly himself these days. He’s got a book in the stores that’s getting the kind of press AA Milne must have received when his stories about Christopher Robin dropped at Ye Olde Booke Shoppe in the ’20s. The critics love James’ young-adult novel, Freak Show, including the all-important make-or-break School Library Journal, which gave the book a starred review:
Teenage drag queen Billy Bloom explodes onto the conservative scene at Eisenhower Academy, where he finds love and a band of blond sadists. St. James tells the oldest story in the book, the one where an outcast seeks the homecoming crown, only this time a queen wants to be Queen. Billy’s bold, bawdy narration makes Freak Show not only cohesive but also immensely entertaining. Readers will relish his conversational voice, naughty humor, celebrity put-downs, unabashed exuberance, and ALL CAPS expletives. Beneath the sequins, feathers, and foundation, Billy nurses an ardent desire for acceptance. Teens will quickly identify with his worries and needs, even as he dons lip gloss and a beehive wig. Billy shirks labels (he calls himself a “Gender Obscurist”), and this book also refuses to be defined by sexuality. Yes, Billy falls for another boy, and yes, they do kiss. Teens will find this romance fresh and fun, but they will also enjoy exploring complicated issues of empowerment, bigotry, self-esteem, and fear. Freak Show visits these difficult regions of adolescence with gracious candor and humor. More buoyant than weighty, this book flows as a fast-paced, snarky story of high school horrors. Mature readers will love St. James’s playful rendition of a conventional American tale.
And the Washington Post begins its review with “Billy Bloom, 17-year-old drag queen […] might not be everyone’s idea of a teen role model, but he should be” – and then gets its rave full on.