I fell in love with Dean Atta’s work when he released a poem called How To Be Gay in the Proud anthology by Stripes. I found it to be the story that i connected with the most in the anthology and the way it was written was right up my street. When i found out that Dean would be releasing a verse novel called The Black Flamingo, i jumped at the chance to get hold of the book ASAP.
I adore novels written in verse. There’s something so easy about them that breaks up a reading pattern so nicely. After adoring the snippet of Dean’s work that i’d read before, i knew that i’d absolutely adore The Black Flamingo.
The story follows Michael from childhood. Of him figuring out his sexuality, identity and what that meant to him. The story begins as Michael is a child, experimenting with Barbie’s instead of action men that are being pushed upon him, and takes you through until his university days. It’s a complete span of his life, and ends with Michael finding the people he fits in with most in life, the drag queens.
The way this story was written was absolutely stunning. It was so incredibly easy to read with leaving little hints to Michael’s culture, life and feelings that let you figure out some situations for yourself. Without a doubt it’s one of the best verse books i’ve had the pleasure of reading due to the writing being absolutely phenomenal. Dean creates characters that fit incredibly well in the world they’re in, whilst showing how difficult it is for them to try and fit in that world.
One thing i’ve always found hard to read about is the side characters in verse novels. I’ve always found them to be written in a way that i could never connect to them and they were literally pushed to the side a little. However, Dean wrote the side characters with such personality they really stuck out. Michael’s mum and sister were huge parts to the story, as was his childhood friend Daisy, and i absolutely adored their characters and the addition they made to the story.
Once Michael had grown and moved to university, a range of diverse characters were brought in to the story that were absolutely wonderful representations of all walks of life. It was lovely to see such diversity in one novel, and have it all so well represented. I felt incredibly refreshing, especially as i’d not read an LGBTQ+ verse novel before.
I loved Michael’s character too. He was never too flamboyant or trying to be something he wasn’t, and that was portrayed perfectly. Throughout the story he felt like someone i’d like to be friends with, and that’s always something i look for when trying to connect with a character. There were obvious moments throughout the book where Michael was struggling, either with his sexuality, home life or anything else, and i found it raw and realistic, which is something i really look for in books like this.
I really appreciated the representation of younger Drag Queens and people just getting in to the world as they grown up. I thought it was lovely to show that side of the world to a YA audience as valid and an interest that is incredibly important to some people. I’ve never read any fiction about Drag Queens, and i genuinely think it might be difficult to find one now that tops The Black Flamingo.
If you want an easy read which is excellent to speed through, The Black Flamingo is definitely for you. I read it in a matter of hours and the story along with the characters was absolutely perfect. I also really appreciated how inclusive yet accessible it was to so many people. I definitely think Dean Atta is one to watch in the future.