The high-rise housing estate where 13-year-old Angel lives is a war zone
In the days around Christmas and New Year, boys bombard each other with snowballs and fireworks. The police have not dared to show their faces for weeks. Angel divides her time between her mother, who is a striptease dancer, and her alcoholic grandfather. Her mother wants nothing to do with her grandfather, and her father isn’t around.
Angel has ADHD, but the medication makes her feel like a zombie, so she has stopped taking her pills. She’d rather be agitated. That makes life hard at school, where she spends more time outside the classroom than in it and has no friends — until she meets clever Kayleigh and has long conversations with her in the play- ground. But then Kayleigh moves house and heads off to grammar school, which is not the place for Angel.
Drama Queen follows Angel in brief episodes over the course of three winters. In the first part, she is thirteen. By the final part, she is fifteen. Along the way, it becomes clear that Angel has not got over her dislike of boys and that she and Kayleigh are more than just friends. This is a subject that has received little attention in YA literature and certainly not in this way: almost incidentally, as this book is about far more than just the relationship between the two girls.
In his previous books, Derk Visser has shown how brilliantly he can write about strong, independent young people in challenging circumstances. He does this in a beautiful, crystal-clear style that makes the reader alternate between tears and laughter.
His characters always speak in a way that is just a little too experienced for their age, which makes them even more endearing. No matter how grim the situations sound, Visser’s books are not problem books, and his protagonists are quirky heroes, each in their own way. This time he has opted for a truly hopeful ending: Kayleigh comes back into Angel’s life every winter. Drama Queen is Visser’s best YA novel yet.