Review by Booklist Review
Throughout his childhood, Michael knew he was different in more ways than one; he considered himself like the black flamingo of Cyprus--anatomically the same, but a standout amongst his flock. When he comes out during high school with uncertainties about what exactly his sexual preferences are, he's faced with a lot of big questions related to his family, friends, and ultimately who he wants to be in the world as he prepares to take off to university. This British import captures its audience from the very first page, with verse poetry that grows and matures alongside its protagonist. Whereas some stories aim to tell all, Atta's writing emphasizes the importance of pauses, allowing the silences to speak just as loudly as what is being said. Michael's internal dissonances are relatable on the most human level, leaving readers in a state of ultimate euphoria when he finally finds family in the Drag Society and begins his reconciliation both with himself and with the world.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this uplifting coming-of-age novel told in accessible verse, Atta (I Am Nobody's Nigger, for adults) chronicles the growth and glory of Michael Angeli, a mixed-race kid from London, as he matures from a child to a man. Navigating cultural identity as Cypriot and Jamaican as well as his emerging sexuality, Michael sheds the painful baggage of his absent father by taking his mother's name. He also grows from a kid who cries when he receives a Ninja Turtle instead of the Barbie of his dreams, to a teen who cries after being rejected by his crush, to a man who doesn't cry but rather shouts when a partner breaks his heart. As a teen, he discovers his love of poetry and abandons his love for song, only to fall head over heels for drag at university. Atta expounds on matters of identity and the struggle to find love and community as a gay black man in a majority-white space--Michael feels neither Greek nor black enough, nor, in his estimation, queer enough to fit in. The book's strongest asset is Atta's poetic imagery, which reflects such memorable moments as the origin of Michael's drag persona (from a news story: "a black flamingo/ has landed on the island") and "How to Do Drag" ("Remember eyebrows are sisters,/ not twins"). Atta's story uplifts as it informs and entertains as it affirms; in Michael's words, "It's about being free." Ages 14--up. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--Atta's character-driven debut novel in verse offers readers an angst-filled look into the life of 19-year-old Mike Angeli. Mike's story is set in modern London. He shares his views and experiences with identity beginning from the tender age of six; Mike is constantly reminded how he doesn't fit in due to his mixed (Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican) background; this is exacerbated when he comes out as gay. It is not until Mike joins the Drag Society at university that he begins to accept who he is, no matter what boxes the world wants to put him in. Mike is an authentic character; his triumphs and trials feel like the reader's own. His flaws and lessons learned make him human and easy to feel close to. The secondary characters, Daisy, Lennie, and others, have background stories and connections that add even more depth to the plot and to Mike's development. Readers may be left wanting to know more about Mike's time with the Drag Society, but that doesn't detract from the deserving applause of Mike's growth, and his path to self-acceptance. VERDICT A triumphant and emotional story about standing up for and embracing oneself that readers of any orientation and ethnicity will relate to.--Kharissa Kenner, Bank Street School for Children, New York
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
Winner of the 2020 Stonewall Book Award, this British verse novel by a poet and drag performer offers a welcome exploration of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. In first-person narration, Michael chronicles his journey through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Michael is born to a Jamaican father and Greek-Cypriot mother; though his father is distant, he has support from his mother and uncle, as he figures out where he stands in terms of both ethnic identity and sexuality. His penchant for Barbies manifests itself by age six, and crushes on boys follow, but it's a few years before he comes out to his best friend. And it's not until university that he experiences his first sexual relationships and also develops his drag persona. ("When it's time to go onstage, / know that you're not ready but / this is not about being ready, / it's not even about being fierce / or fearless, it's about being free.") The verse can be pedestrian, largely serving to advance the plot, but the development of the Black Flamingo, as a symbol of Michael's queer identity ("I often feel / like a bad egg that was not meant to be...somehow / living and thriving"), is aptly woven throughout this memorable YA debut. Jonathan Hunt May/June 2020 p.117(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Courage and fierceness abound in this lyrical coming-of-age story about a young boy finding his way. In his latest work, Atta flawlessly captures the pain, rage, and resilience of a boy growing to manhood while feeling like an outsider in his own life. Michael, a British boy of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent, feels caught between worlds: black and white, masculine and feminine, straight and gay. His story, told in verse form, allows readers to watch him grow and to experience each of the triumphs and tragedies that help him define himself on his own terms. Every moment, from asking for a Barbie for his birthday and receiving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to legally discarding the surname of the father who walked out on him, brings Michael vibrantly to life on the page, giving readers a protagonist to cry with and cheer for. Featuring a diverse cast of supporting characters, from Daisy, Michael's mixed-race (black/white) best friend, to the red-haired drama kid whom he shyly asks out, the author uses Michael's first-person narration as a mirror to reflect the world and its brightness, humor, and horrors. Central to the narrative is Michael's loving yet complicated relationship with his hardworking single mother, who sees his talent, values his spirit, and sacrifices for him. Michael's journey of self-discovery demonstrates the importance of not allowing labels to define you. Gripping, unflinching, and unforgettable. (Verse novel. 12-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.