It can be torture waiting for the new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so to while the hours away why not read this Drag-Race themed list of YA novels? I’ve paired each queen from Season 9 with a YA novel that fits their persona. So get those pages turning, henny. Reading is FUN-DA-MENTAL.
Farrah Moan: She’s cute! She’s a little sexy! Just like the book! Like protagonist Lara Jean, Farrah is most appealing in her moments of charming vulnerability. Also, I’m not a doctor, but I’m still pretty sure that she and Lara Jean could talk about boys and clothes all day long.
Aja: Ok, technically this is middle grade fiction, not young adult? But it’s upper middle grade, for ages 10-14, so. Really, see if you can think of a queen-book match this apt. Like witchy-seeming, but princess-destined Agatha, Aja struggles against the completely unfair and absurd burdens of beauty standards that are put on all femmes. And also like Agatha, she may not be the most polished princess, but she’s definitely one of the most talented, as her lip-synch against Kimora proved.
Cynthia Lee Fontaine: You’d think Dumplin’ would go to Eureka, being that they’re both big girls from the South who are bold and brave and beautiful, right? Like, their outfits match and everything. But I think Willowdean would actually find a best friend in Cynthia. Cynthia’s already been through it honey, and she came back after an early elimination last season (and a bout with liver cancer) to slay. She knows who she is, and she’s not afraid to show it. And I bet Willowdean’d see some of herself in that.
Kimora Blac: She’s been pulled, pinched, injected, implanted and padded until she is exactly the picture of sex and beauty you see above. As she trilled during her elimination, “I’m pretty!” Yes, girl. You are. And just like Tally learned, not even enormous amounts of plastic surgery can give you that confidence– you gotta earn it. And Kimora’s got just about as much confidence as she does silicone filler, henny.
Shea Coulee: Remember when Four was like: “I want to be smart, AND honest, AND brave, AND good,” and he wasn’t exactly, because he was like, only sort of divergent? Well, Shea IS all those things, and also represents the four factions of drag: she’s a dancing queen / performer, she brings beauty / sex, she’s a comedy queen AND she can serve a fierce runway look. She’s the kind of Divergent who’d compel me to actually finish the 3rd book. AND just like Tris and Four, bitch, she’s from CHICAGO!
Sasha Velour: She’s not like any of the characters in I’ll Give You The Sun, so much as she’s like the book itself. Every episode, Sasha serves us wisdom, with a heaping side of beauty. Every page of I’ll Give You The Sun does the same. Sasha’s appreciation and dedication to art is worthy of Jandy Nelson’s gorgeous poetic prose, and for real I feel like if she hasn’t read it, she’d really enjoy it. They’re both acts of tribute to art by being art themselves. Like, does anyone know Sasha? Can I buy this book for her please?
Nina Bonina Osama Bin Laden Brown: Nina’s got to be one of the most original and exciting queens to come on this season. Griffin’s novel, Spare and Found Parts is one of the most original and exciting YA novels to come out in the last year. Both are strange and strangely beautiful for being so strange. Also, like protagonist Nell, Nina can make something out anything and / or nothing. Someone please write some fanfic where Nina and Nell craft some shit together. Would read that.
Valentina: She’s only been doing drag for TEN MONTHS? We all die due to overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. It can be hard not to resent this gorgeous, young, powerhouse. It seems like she just woke up like this, which is to say: perfect. But talent is talent, and Valentina’s got it. Like Katsa. They both slay. Literally and otherwise.
Jaymes Mansfield: Look, we didn’t have a ton of time to get to know Jaymes. The thing about this show is that the first queen to go will probably always kind of remain a mystery– other than Porkchop. But she seems sweet and funny and charming, just like this book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages but still haven’t seems. Plus, her hometown dress matched the cover, so.
Eureka: This bitch came out of the pageant world, and you can tell. Her look is polished and she’s clearly a competitor. But like this novel, this beauty queen is more subversive wit than anything else. If she’s not around for the reading challenge, I’ll have to light a candle, because you know she’s ready to read all these girls to filth. And like Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, Eureka legit may murder someone.
Alexis Michelle: She’s classy and she loves her gowns. She may be more Broadway than 5th Avenue, but Alexis Michelle’d fit right in the world of Anna Godbersen’s Luxe novels. You really want to tell me she wouldn’t want custom gowns, gossip and a luxurious settee to spill the T on? Please.
Peppermint: Drag– as in the best YA– is all about fucking with gender. Peppermint gets that, and so did Patricia Wrede. Like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles author, Peppermint is the kind of pioneer who’s humor throws the absurdity of a two gender system into stark clarity. And they’ve both been leading the way for years now. As Alexis Michelle told us, Peppermint is a legend. And so is Patricia Wrede.
Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor: Did you see this queen pull her earrings out before her lip-synch like she was about to throw hands at a bitch? I bet if they changed the lip-synch to a literal death match, Trinity’d still be all in. She’s a fierce competitor, and would definitely be a District 1 or 2 tribute. She’s been training for this her whole life and it shows. She’s like a drag assassin.
Charlie Hides: Far and away Charlie’s most memorable moment was when she reflected on the AIDs crisis of the 80s-90s. If you didn’t cry when she cried, I seriously worry about your ability to empathize, and suggest you read more. Start with Two Boys Kissing. Like the nameless, collective narrators of this beautiful book, Charlie reminds us not only of all that we lost thanks to lack of education and government apathy, but also the importance of self-care now.
And who would Mama Ru be? Why, the Judy Blume ouevre, of course! Not one book. ALL OF THEM. Because without Ru there’d be no mainstreaming of drag, no amazing drag race for us all to watch, no platform for these now 113 queens. And without our best good Judy, it’s not likely we’d have the wealth of YA we have now, either. They’re both inspirations, and they’re both LEGENDARY.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall has an MFA in writing from University of San Francisco, and a tendency to spill things. She splits her time writing for kids and for adults and her debut children’s book, Also an Octopus, has been called “wickedly absurd” and “a perceptive how-to” that will “inspire kids to imagine a story of their own.” You can follow her @emteehall, or on her podcast, Let’s Not Panic.