Becoming a Queen by Dan Clay: Daring Exploration of Identity

If only Mark Davis hadn’t put on a dress for the talent show. It was a joke―other guys did it too―but when his boyfriend saw Mark in that dress, everything changed.

And now, fresh on the heels of high school heartbreak, Mark has given up on love. Maybe some people are just too much for this world―too weird, too wild, too feminine, too everything. Thankfully, his older brother Eric always knows what to say to keep Mark from spinning into self-loathing. “Be yourself! Your full sequin-y self.”

But Mark starts to notice signs that his perfect older brother has problems of his own.

When the source of Mark’s strength suddenly becomes the source of his greatest pain, the path back to happiness seems impossible. Searching for a way out, Mark slips into a dress to just, briefly, become someone else, live a different life. His escape, however, becomes an unexpected outlet for his pain―a path to authentic connection, and a provocation to finally see other people as fully as he wants to be seen.

Beautifully written, heart-wrenching, and ultimately uplifting, Dan Clay’s Becoming a Queen is a stunning story about love, loss, and the ineffable power of a purple princess dress.

In this novel about love and loss, Dan Clay’s story is a daring exploration of identity and becoming your true self. The writing beautifully executed some painful moments in Eric’s life with an emotional gut punch, letting readers feel all the drama, love and pain that happens in life. I love the lessons Mark learns as he copes with the pain in his life and interacts with his friends. The emotions are so vibrant I could feel every emotion as though it were happening to me. 

Beyond Mark’s exploration of self and identity, Dan Clay does an excellent job of also developing the secondary characters, Ezra, Mark’s boyfriend, and his friends Crystal and Damien. We also get some beautifully written moments with his parents and his brother Eric. The cataclysm of events that happen to Mark and to those in his family is well written. Dan Clay aptly foreshadows the loss that Mark experiences but you only notice in the aftermath, as you absorb the emotional heartbreak of the novel. Ultimately, the book shows us how Mark copes with his struggles and his loss. The ending is uplifting and hopeful. 

If you have been someone who was different or knew someone who struggled with identity, this is a wonderful novel. If you’ve ever experienced loss, you will appreciate the exquisite touch Dan Clay has with the emotional weight of loss and grief. He infuses the novel with hope but remains authentic and true to the characters and doesn’t sugarcoat how difficult the process can be. Readers will find it heartbreaking but beautiful.   It is a daring exploration of identity. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 purple princess dresses.

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