Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 29, 2019
Genres: Action & Adventure, Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult
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Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.
But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them — for good?
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
As soon as I saw Death Prefers Blondes being pitched as Ocean’s 8 meets RuPaul’s Drag Race, I was all in. (Because if there’s one thing I love more than queer YA, it’s queer YA that ALSO involves drag queens). And, friends, this one did NOT disappoint. Not only did the action scenes keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading, but I couldn’t help but fall lace-front head over six-inch heels for this whole cast of characters.
I won’t go into any specifics about plot in this review, since Death Prefers Blondes is so action-packed from start to finish. However, I will say that we follow a main character named Margo Manning, a Hollywood socialite by day and LA’s most capable criminal by night. Along with her team of drag queen accomplices (and a little help from her own drag persona, Miss Anthropy), she pulls off some of the toughest, most high-profile break-ins around the city. We’re talking everything from stolen jewel heists to stealing priceless art from a well-guarded museum. One day, though, Margo’s fence offers her a sum of money she’s only ever dreamed of– but it would require her team to pull off a seemingly impossible job. Everything takes off from there, and the mystery at the heart of the book becomes increasingly more personal to Margo as new information is revealed.
As a very character-driven reader, I sometimes struggle with plot-driven stories. However, in Death Prefers Blondes, even though I honestly could not care less about the elaborate action sequences– although, let me be clear, they are objectively VERY well-written– I was still 100% invested in the story because of how much I cared about the characters. Each queen in Margo’s crew has very specific motivations for their involvement in organized crime. There are Axel Moreau, AKA Leisl von Tramp, and Joaquin Moreau, AKA Anita Stiffwon, two brothers trying to keep their family afloat after their Hollywood royalty father landed in jail due to stealing money from the entire who’s-who of Los Angeles. There’s Leif Darby, AKA Electra Shoxx, who needs money to pay his dance school tuition in order to remain in LA, far from his homophobic family. There’s Davon Stokes, AKA Dior Galore, who is forced to pay off the drug dealers who his drag mother can’t stop paying visits to. And, of course, there’s Margo herself, who has her own myriad reasons for her involvement in LA’s criminal underbelly.
In so many ways, Death Prefers Blondes was a love letter to found families and to queer culture. Every queer person will tell you that you naturally seek out other queer folks for understanding and acceptance, and nowhere is this more evident than in drag sisterhoods. In addition to all of our leading men in this book being queer, Margo is also bisexual, which is representation I was so not expecting but that made my heart SIIIIIING. This label is explicitly stated on page, and we also see her involved in relationships with people of multiple genders. There is also nonbinary rep in a side character, another wonderful surprise! And 3/5 main characters are POC, as is the love interest. Basically, Death Prefers Blondes proves that drag is not just for white, cis gay men. As a huge fan of drag, but a not-so-huge fan of RPDR and mainstream drag’s frequent disdain for trans, nonbinary, and bio queens– and also the RPDR fandom’s racist tendencies– this book was a much more inclusive portrayal of drag, which felt so much more true to the queer community that *I* know and love. Fans of drag will recognize a lot of the colloquialisms commonly associated with the community, which made me smile every time they appeared.
Death Prefers Blondes also features a romance that I adored, between Margo and Henry Yang, a half-Asian, half- Hispanic law student who begins an apprenticeship with the Manning family’s lawyer. I especially appreciated how sex positive this book was in general, but particularly in regards to Margo and Henry’s relationship. Also, there was witty banter galore between these two. And if you’re going into this book looking for a cute #ownvoices m/m romance, you also will not be disappointed on that front! A romance develops between Leif and Joaquin, as well as the budding chemistry between Axel and Davon.
As I already mentioned, the action sequences in this book, while not something I particularly cared about, were so well-described. Each high-stakes scenario had me on the edge of my seat. Really, the adrenaline never left me while reading Death Prefers Blondes, because there was always some looming threat on the horizon. The story is full of twists and turns that keep you on your toes. I also loved how dialogue-heavy this book was, mostly because the dialogue was extremely well-written.
Overall, if you’re looking for a queer YA mystery with no shortage of thrilling twists and turns, Death Prefers Blondes is the book for you. It may be long, but it will keep you engaged and flipping the pages the entire way through, and you’ll totally fall for these characters.
Have you read Death Prefers Blondes?