Death Prefers Blondes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

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 drag families (and therefore found families in general) and to queer culture. Every queer person will tell you that you naturally seek out other queer folks for understanding and acceptance, and no more 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?
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This book is amazing! It you're hooked in by the premise of drag queen heist, you're in for a treat - that delivers everything you want it to and more. But this book also becomes a wonderful, poignant book with deep character development and one of the best ensemble casts I've read in years. So, so much fun.
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So many stereotypes, so little time. Death Prefers Blondes is yet another promising premise failing to live up to its potential. There are a few things that are great about this book but they aren’t enough to lift it out of the morass. Drag queens, socialites, robbery, and revenge should be a winning combination, a fresh twist on a tired genre, but Roehrig fails to deliver. Switching POV from one paragraph to the next is only one of several major faults in this work, jarring the reader out of the narrative and leaving them scratching their head. There’s nothing wrong with internal monologues but in this case the inconsistent shifts, coupled with telling, rather than showing the reader the significance behind words and actions, took a great deal of fun out of the narrative. And the generic characterizations, barring the drag queen aspect, were just that: generic and boring. Add ten or even twenty years to each of the stated ages of the characters, and almost nothing in the story would be any different. Their interactions, the problems they face, their dialogue, everything with the exception of high school attendance, would be exactly the same and it wouldn’t change the story at all. Substitute college or job and it’s still exactly the same motivations and relationships. There’s really nothing that sets these characters or their worlds apart. Tired tropes of “poor little rich girl,” “misunderstood loner,” and “little-brother-fighting-for-recognition” have all been done before, and much better. It’s sad when a story that could be great has a stumbling start and never succeeds in rising to the occasion. Two stars (one for the premise and one for pity.)
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Received an ARC from Netgalley for an honest opinion.

I will start this review with the fact that I wanted to like this book more. 

Unfortunately, over plot got in the way. This is yet another book that falls in the "The Plains of Passage" box. The publisher wanted it longer, and the author threw in unnecessary information to make it longer. With this book, it was the personal relationships of the boys, this was not germane to the story at all. Another problem was the over detailed heist scenes. I had to speed read through most of it, because I got bored. Also, this book really needs to pick a genre and stick with it, because i'm not sure if it knows what it is supposed to be.

I was happy with the overall idea of the book, I enjoyed the ending. It was just hard to get to the ending.
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Death Prefers Blondes is a smart and witty novel that is reminiscent of the old caper movies. It has great humor and a good lesson at the end. The teenagers have hilarious drag queen names and find that yes crime does pay...very well. Margo is a great character and Caleb Roehrig has a hit on his hands!
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I love a good heist story; I'm just a sucker for a caper, particularly when I get to ride along with an rag-tag band of heroes.  It's my catnip, so I was predisposed to enjoy Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig.  Of course, I have a feeling the queens would object to my use of the term 'rag-tag'.  

This new offering takes off in what I've come to think of as classic Roehrig fashion.  We're dropped right into the action, which really appeals to readers looking for a fast-paced novel.  The thing which elevates Roehrig's work, however, is the character development that follows.  It cannot be easy to introduce five important characters simultaneously and give each of them drag personas as well, and then get your audience to care about them.  Here, it's been handled with a deft hand.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the author once again brings the reader a diverse band of characters that we actually care about. This is an adventurous romp that doesn't skimp on 'the feels' and I cannot wait to add Death Prefers Blondes to my class library in January.
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I loved this book! The full review will be posted soon at kaitgoodwin.com/books! Thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity to connect books to their readers!
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Ocean’s Eleven with drag queens, murder, romance, suspense, and general hilarity. Amazing plot, character development, and pacing. Smartly written and surprisingly funny and touching at the same time. This is a must-buy for all libraries who serve teens, and I cannot wait to booktalk it!
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