Waylon Brewer is a gay, fat boy stuck in a small town. He is desperately waiting for High School to be over, so he and his twin sister Clementine can get out of there and he can actually start to be as flamboyant as he wants to be. Not that he is able to hide that he is gay, even if he wanted to. But there is “being femme” and then there is “being a sparkling queen”, and Waylon isn’t ready to be the latter in Clover City. That doesn’t keep him from creating Miss Pumpkin Patch and making an audition video for his favorite drag reality TV show though. When that video gets out and is circulated in school, it leads to him being nominated for prom queen, and Clem’s girlfriend Hannah is nominated for prom king. Waylon has a choice to make: turn himself down as much as he can, or finally go full Waylon, even if that means spending a lot of time with gorgeous, but infuriating prom king nominee Tucker.
Pumpkin is a wonderfully sweet, funny read that gives you just the right amount of fluff and romance, with a nice dose of life advice we can all take to heart a little more.
There are so many things to love about Pumpkin, really. Starting with the choice of protagonist. Waylon is fat, femme and gay – a very unusual combination in itself. What makes it even more unusual is that contrary to a lot of young adult gay stories, this is not about figuring out that he’s gay, or how to let everyone know that he is. He knows, we know, everybody around him knows. Instead, his story is much more about figuring out how to live as yourself fully and loudly, and not put things off until some unspecified later time. Something that a lot of people will be able to relate to but that struck me as particularly relevant for fat people. I grew up fat and for a long time, I told myself “Oh, I’ll do this and that once I’m thin”. It’s a toxic mindset that lets you go through life in a muted fashion (I got an essay about this in a proverbial drawer somewhere, maybe I should publish it at some point).
I also really liked that Waylon is surrounded by queer people, starting with his twin Clem and her girlfriend Hannah, but that is far from all. Because even in a small town like Clover City, queer people are everywhere and you can find community (even if that wonderful queer community doesn’t save you from a homomisic society). Plus, it shows that queerness comes in many different ways. Since Waylon is a “stereotypical gay” in the sense that he is femme, and into drag, and dramatic, this broad spectrum doesn’t reduce being gay to that stereotype, but shows that it is just one form of many.
And finally, yes to a bisexual love interest (even though this is never made explicit in the sense that no label is ever put on it) who is never suspected of infidelity or not being satisfied with just one romantic partner. Really, it’s a very cute romance overall with two very likable dudes. That being said, it is probably the most romance-leaning of the three Clover City novels, but it’s still more focused on Waylon figuring himself out than him figuring romance out.
Speaking of the other novels: we do get glimpses of the characters of the other two books and how things progress there with a tiny subplot drama about Willowdean and Bo. (Of course, Hannah gets more of a role here.) Revisiting them is always nice for people who have read the other two novels, but even for those who haven’t, I don’t think it’s a problem to have them included in this way.
In short, it’s a quick, sweet and funny read that is sure to warm you up from the inside. Really my biggest complaint about it is that it wasn’t longer.