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Martin McLean, Middle School Queen

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  178 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In this bighearted middle-grade debut, Martin McLean struggles to find his voice—and his inner diva—as he navigates friendship, family, first crushes, and a whole lot of glitter.

Seventh-grader Martin McLean has always been surrounded by people who can express themselves. His mother is an artist, his colorful Tío Billy works in theater, and his best friends Carmen and Pick
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Sterling Children's
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Michelle Stimpson
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I was nine, I read ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME MARGARET by Judy Blume and I had an epiphany - I wanted to do THAT. I wanted to write books that would sit next to Judy Blume's on the shelves. Books about real stuff. Hard stuff.

When Martin McLean was twelve-years-old, he saw his first drag show and he had an epiphany - he wanted to do THAT. He wanted to be on that stage with all the lights, and make-up, and glitter and he wanted to strut his stuff.

I hope you've had that feeling. I hope you un
Holy Normalizing Queerness for Kids, Batman!

more when I don't have to leave for work, but uh. Don't sleep on this one, kids. 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.

This book is fabulou
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
At first I was skeptic because I realized the book wasn't own voices and it had an irish cuban boy questioning his sexuality as a main character. Can this author tell this story? It was enjoyable and I was happy to read in the acknowledgments how many different people helped her built this book.

I've been to a few drag shows and I've been present when the magic, the transformation, happened. And it's truly magical. Drag queens are fierce and you feel it just being in the same room with them. I lo
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
A few quick thoughts:

A) This book occasionally explores the drag scene in Bloomington, Indiana, a.k.a. the first place I truly embraced my identity. Shout out to Ginger Ale, Della Licious, Richard Cranium, Uncle Elizabeth's, my friend Kris (I regret not hanging out with you more), and the organizers of Miss Gay IU, the first student-sponsored collegiate drag competition.

B) I almost gave this book 2 stars. As far as I know, the author is a straight, cisgender woman, and there were many times wher
Emily Monaco
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had the distinct pleasure of reading this début: it's funny, it's heart-warming, it's human, and it's incredibly touching, with messages of being true to yourself and learning to trust the people who care about you. Martin is sure to captivate and dazzle readers old and young!
Laura Gardner
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Sometimes you can know who you are and what you want in your heart, but try and smother it because you know it's different from what the world wants you to be...But nobody knows you better than you do. Yours is the only voice you need to listen to."...Don't mind me...I'm just over here cheering through my tears for Martin McLean, middle school drag queen, who learns to listen to his own voice in this fabulous MG book. I think we all need a reminder to listen hard for what our own heart is telli ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I ended up liking this middle grades book about a shy but spunky teen drag queen a lot more than I expected. Martin is the main character and we get to know him the best, but his interactions with his friends and family had me literally grinning and/or laughing out loud at times. There are a couple group text message transcripts that were just so perfectly written. All of the main and secondary characters come off authentic. (Some tertiary characters are pretty 2D, but I'd be nitpicking if I cou ...more
Amelia Rosegrant
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“What would you call a group of drag queens anyway? A sparkle? A monarchy? A glamour?”

“So who cares who you love? What matters is that you do love”

Martin McLean, Middle School Queen is such a gorgeous book. I needed this book in middle school! I loved the representation of a questioning child and how well it explored that knowing or not knowing your sexuality is a journey. There was so much in this book that I related to (adoption rep, anxiety rep), and so much that I know my students will conne
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A smart, funny and compelling book. The characters are well defined and real. Great small town life details and amazing chemistry between these middle school friends. And...Celia Cruz!? Holy Cow! How on earth does a young twenty something author know about Celia Cruz? One whole star is just for that. Go directly to YouTube and look you up some Celia Cruz before, during or after you read this book. Yo Vivre!
Benji Martin
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This one is definitely unique. I've never read a middle grade novel like it.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written first person perspective from a boy who is confused about who he is and who he believes he should be. This is a must read for anyone who has ever felt lost and confused in a world which tries to fit everyone into behaviors that fit the norm.
Ms. Yingling
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Martin Lives with his artist mom (who is Afro-Cuban) in Bloomingtom, Indiana, but his father, who is of Irish descent, lives with his new family. When Martin has an anxiety attack at school and his concerned teacher calls home, his mother invites his Tío Billy to stay with them and be a male influence for a while, while he and his husband are moving to Chicago. Billy takes Martin to a club near campus that puts on drag shows. Martin is surprised that Billy is a pe
Karen Kline
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school, equity, friendship
Martin is a shy, brainy seventh grader. His favorite part of the day is math club, Junior Mathletes, that is. He's hoping his team makes it to the regional competition again this year. Math class should be a breeze, since his best friends Pickle and Carmen are in his class. The only problem is Nelson, the kid who thinks he's funny but he's more of a bully who says hurtful things when teachers can't hear. One day Nelson slings a zinger, and Martin is horrified that Nelson seems to think he likes ...more
Kristin Crouch
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm so grateful to have won a copy of Martin McLean, Middle School Queen.
Martin is my favorite kind of introspective and curious protagonist. We meet him as he's entering seventh grade. Everyone else seems to have their lives figured out: his best friend Carmen is an outspoken and determined drama queen, Pickle is hilariousy nerdy and in love with Violet. So why can't Martin figure himself out? When he has a panic attack on the first day of school, Martin's mom calls her younger brother, Tio Bil
Dawn Stahl
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-winter, reviewed
A full-hearted, optimistic, feel-good book that takes junior high angst and crushes it in self-expression, loving adults, awesome friends, a little bit of serving face, and a whole lot of glitter.

Martin is sailing into seventh grade with high grades, a shelf full of Mathlete trophies, a tight group of genuine friends, and a supportive mother — but he's struggling. His artist mom wants him to talk to her and generally express himself more but his mind freezes up whenever he tries. The white noise
Jessie Bond
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Martin McLean and his drag alter ego, Lottie León, stole my heart and I don't want it back. Martin is an anxious, awkward middle schooler who finds a whole new world when his Tío Billy takes him to a drag show. Enthralled by the queens' glamour and confidence, Martin sets out on a journey to learn drag and compete in All-Ages Night at the local coffee shop. The only problem is, the competition is the same night as the championship for the Mathletes team, which he's captain of. Oh, and he's tryin ...more
Carol McCarthy
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Martin is like most of us unsure and anxouse. Alyssa Zaczek does an excelent job portraying how hard it is to communicate if you are not even sure how you feel or what the right words are. By the end Martin has learned alot about himself and some about the wider world, life is looking up.

This book could be a way for some young people to open conversations. Things that are explained to Martin or he works out can give anyone extra insight.

My only quibble with the book i
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids, ya
As stories about a potentially hard topic, this is a pretty gentle and supportive situation for a kid exploring drag, sexuality and middle school friendships. Quite heartwarming and good rally at the end. Martin is half Cuban. His single mother and uncle are universally supportive and loving and wonderful. His friends are funny and loving as well. I enjoyed the inclusivity that's all throughout -- from adopted Violet's conversations about being in a mixed family and wheelchair, to the various di ...more
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s, 2019
*reviewed from uncorrected ARC**
diverse middlegrade fiction (questioning mixed-race 7th grader with Afro-Cuban single mom in Indiana enters the drag queen scene with help from his Tío Billy while juggling friends, Mathletes, anxiety)
After suffering a panic attack in class triggered by a classmate's homophobic bullying, Martin's uncle takes him to a drag show--which Martin loves and immediately wants to be part of the scene. He doesn't know if he likes boys or girls yet, but he thinks that drag w
A cute, light-hearted story about a middle school boy who starts doing drag. I was a bit surprised when some of the characters had such a reaction to a gay or drag-performing kid. It doesn't seem like the tendency these days for people to be so shocked or bigoted by this (maybe this is just a trend in juvenile fiction), at least in a college town like Bloomington, where the story is set. Points for lowkey hinting that the Mathletes teacher supervisor might be queer. Starting to realize that Mill ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-release, ya-mg
This is a super charming and super-inclusive read, about a middle schooler who falls in love with drag and decides to be a drag queen, like his beloved uncle. But wait, his math competition is the same night as his first big drag queen show! This is not something I normally read--since there are no fairies, dragons, or witches in it--but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it nonetheless. There's also great disability rep in it. The main character has panic attacks, and his best friend dates an awesome ...more
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A middle grade novel that has its protagonist becoming and then performing drag...OH MY!!!

I loved everything about this book. As a fully grown queer who loves drag, many things made me 😊.

However, growing up confused/questioning many parts also made me cringe remembering those moments in my own life.

I really wished this book existed when I was 9-12 because it would’ve helped immensely at that time and perhaps those wouldn’t be cringe worthy memories.

Disney Plus, Netflix, somebody!!! Please adapt
The heart of the story is Martin's struggle to understand who he is, and every tween can relate to that. The cast is diverse and inclusive, and I especially loved the Spanish woven into the conversations within Martin's family. Both the family and friendship dynamics felt real. The story balances realism with humor, offering readers a way through moments that may hit too close to home or be uncomfortable for them.

See why our reviewer thinks every preteen should read this book.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a well written coming of age middle grade novel. A debut about finding your voice and inner diva. This novel is a great read for anyone young or old who is struggling to find their identity. I think the author has given us a great gift in Martin McLean as a positive LGTBQ character. A big shout out to Alyssa Zaczek for sending me this book and the inscription of “Keep Sparkling!” We all need to keep sparkling. I know a lot of kids have a hard time expressing their words but I hope that mayb ...more
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, kids-j, lgbtq
What a joy! Shy Martin is a math genius who, with the help of his gay uncle, discovers drag, and blossoms! This book is about acceptance and expression, conveying the struggles and anxieties of homophobia, assumptions, and acceptance. I found this book very realistic, yet very encouraging. It busts phobic assumptions about drag queens (look how smart Martin and his uncle are!) and reminds readers of both the importance of accepting and encouraging our friends, and that there are indeed supportiv ...more
Rick Hribko
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Read to see if I could recommend to other students, especially GSA students. Great book for all students, especially GSA. Deals with drag/cross-dressing issues and transgender issues. Great explanations, very informative, and humor to keep it light, informative, and interesting for all students. I am going to recommend to the school librarian and buy more copies for my own room. Thank you, Ms. Zaczek for a book that belongs on all middle school shelves!
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I cannot recommend this book highly enough! It is an eye-opening, feel-good read. I feel all ages should read this book. I wish this book existed when I was in middle school. I'm grateful that it exists now. Please, let there be a sequel! I want more!!!!! In the meantime, I will happily reread and this book again and again. The message is that good. It is something we all need to hear. Basically, I feel like reading this book made me a better person, and I am so grateful for that.
Amanda Workman
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely coming of age story of Martin McLean, mathlete, gamer, and potential drag queen. Dealing with an absent dad, hard working single mom, and panic attacks Martin is in search of his identity and voice. Filled with diverse real characters Martin McLean is a very easy loving way to discuss identity.
Jenny Ashby
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this as much as I loved the IDEA of it the second I knew it existed. I’ve been anxious to get my hands on a copy for months so it’s a little sad that I’m only feeling three stars-ish about it. Characters are fun and the message comes through loud and clear, but it’s all too pat for me with the only real struggle being Martin’s interior one.
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2020, ya, lgbtq, reviewed
Super cute, and I'm always happy with books that celebrate drag. This one's particularly nice in that it's for a younger audience and manages to work in some really healthy messages of affirmation without getting preachy about it.

Some of it feels a little far-fetched to me, but that's largely beyond the point. More drag queens! More glitter! I do wish books in this vein had been around when I was this age.
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Alyssa Zaczek is the author of MARTIN MCLEAN, MIDDLE SCHOOL QUEEN, (Sterling Children's.) She is represented by Jessica Mileo at InkWell Management.

Originally from Chicago, Alyssa currently lives and works in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. When she's not writing, Alyssa can be found cooking, reading, crafting and chasing after her dogs and two deeply obnoxious cats.

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