Okay, so this is some wildly imaginative and broad-minded, generous-spirited young adult literature right here! I was worried for a while that it wasn't going to leave room for readers like me, which is to say, the LGBTQIA+ community, but Clayton got there. Sure, this is a case of a main character who happens to have that one queer friend, but ... she didn't make any missteps in introducing that character, and she very clearly wanted to make room for queer readers. So I'm a fan of the execution, even if queerness is not centered. And you know who are centered? Characters of color! And a conversation about performing ourselves for others, even at the expense of our true identities! It's wonderful! And nuanced! And there are little hot-air balloons that you send with your mail! The little touches of steampunk (balloonpunk?) complement the aesthetics-obsessed world perfectly, even while Clayton explores the science at the heart of the Belles' magic.
It's great. 10/10 would recommend, and recommend with chocolate and a visit to New Orleans' historic district. Or maybe Montreal. Why not both? Do both.
And I eagerly await the sequel! And hopefully, the movie. This would be a great movie.