Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and...

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Title:Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
Author:Tanya Boteju
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens Reviews

  • Julie Zantopoulos

    *This arc was provided by Simon Pulse via Netgalley in return for my honest review.*

    I kinda didn't want this story to end because saying goodbye to such vibrant, leap off the page, characters

    *This arc was provided by Simon Pulse via Netgalley in return for my honest review.*

    I kinda didn't want this story to end because saying goodbye to such vibrant, leap off the page, characters sucks. I really loved Nima, and her father and Jill (her mother's best friend), and Charles, and DeeDee, and Winnow, and Gordon (trust me, you'll get there too). The cast of characters in this novel are so rich and wonderful and their fight to figure themselves out, to carve a place in the world for themselves that feels right and safe is so stunningly raw and real.

    Nima is queer but has never really put a label on herself, and that's totally fine. What isn't okay is the other people in town who like to yell out that she's a dyke or a lesbian and assign her labels before she's even decided on one for herself. Throughout this novel she's trying to figure out where she feels the safest on the gender spectrum as well as in her comfort level within the queer community. This is such a vulnerable look at being overwhelmed by such a diverse, rich, and vibrant community and finding your place within it.

    The drag queens, Deirdre in particular, and the kings as well (Winnow has my heart) are so welcoming and patient with her. Nima explores her gender and sexuality through drag, through engagement in the community, and it's really fun and sometimes cringe-worthy to watch. It's not easy diving into a world that is so nuanced and she messes up a bit before getting it "right".

    Throughout the novel, all characters show so much respect for one another. They take notice of pronouns used, how people identify and are open about asking when they are unsure. Winnow as a love interest is the actual best in that she communicates clearly, is open to Nima being new to the larger community, and patient with her even as Nima freaks out and pushes her away. She's an actual angel.

    Also as the heart of this story is Nima and her relationship with her mother who left over a year ago without much explanation. Okay, pretty much no explanation, just a note that said she had to leave. Turns out that even if your parents look like they're madly in love there could be a ton going on you don't see. Nima's father is pretty much the greatest, he's a mumu wearing hippie and he's got my heart as well, but she wants her mother around, too. Who wouldn't? Unfortunately, this is the one aspect of the book that I feel like was underdeveloped and not done as well as it could have been. I gave this book 5 stars cause it really was the best look at this topic and the world of drag that I've read (okay, the only but I really enjoyed it) but it's probably a 4.25 or 4.5 in reality.

    Her mother's got her own set of issues, her own identity and crap to figure out and I get that but there's a lot that could have been addressed in this book that never happens in terms of their relationship. Also, while I enjoyed her relationship with Jill (her mother's best friend) there were unresolved issues with her that I felt could have/should have been handled better, also. Plus, her father should have been involved more in some of the issues surrounding her mother and more

    dialogue between Nima and him would have been beneficial.

    Most importantly, this is a novel by an author who is queer, who did drag in their youth, and who knows the community. They have personal experience to lend to the storytelling that makes it come alive because it's their story to tell. I haven't ever read about kings before but I loved learning more about the drag community through Nima's eyes. There's a lot of complexity within it and it overwhelmed her but because she kept an open mind and had a desire to know more...she learned and the reader can learn along with her. I adore that this story exists in a world where it can be read, enjoyed, and respected.

    Trigger warnings for domestic abuse, slurs against the queer community (mostly challenged), underage drinking and binge drinking, and abandonment by a parent.

  • Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)

    This took a bit to get into but I don’t think I stopped smiling for the last 100 pages. Delightful, messy, and perfect. I cannot wait to see what Tanya Boteju writes next.

  • Acqua

    is a contemporary story following Nima Kumara-Clark, a

    , as she learns the benefits of going out of her comfort zone through the local drag scene.

    I have read a lot of queer books, but none of them prominently featured drag performers. In this novel, the main character, the love interest, and various side characters have been drag performers at some point.

    is a contemporary story following Nima Kumara-Clark, a

    , as she learns the benefits of going out of her comfort zone through the local drag scene.

    I have read a lot of queer books, but none of them prominently featured drag performers. In this novel, the main character, the love interest, and various side characters have been drag performers at some point.

    , and I'm so glad that's the case.

    . But the messiness is one of its strengths, in a way, and while me and Nima didn't have a lot in common, I could definitely understand her. She's awkward, she makes a lot of bad decisions, she is... imperfect in so many ways, and I loved her for that. If you're the kind of person who needs teen girls to be perfect, I really don't recommend this, because

    .

    I especially liked seeing

    , how she felt what I call "queer imposter syndrome", because there are moments in which she sees herself as far too bland to even have the right to interact with other queer people. (By the way: answering that your hobby is reading and, when asked for more details, saying that your hobby is reading novels is something I've done. It's what people who have been mocked for their "boring/weird" hobbies or have this specific insecurity would do. Being vague is a shield.)

    Also:

    . I love her, and I loved her narrative voice, for the most part - but if you plan to go into this, keep in mind that it's often

    . To make a few examples of weird, emphatic figures of speech in her narration:

    And more. It got distracting at times, especially since I don't love this kind of writing, but for Nima's personality, it made sense. But my personal favorite was this one:

    As you can see, she's a poet, and has such a way with words.

    As I said before, I saw this book as slice-of-life. I say this because

    . This is Nima's story, what her mom is doing isn't relevant to her - realizing that it isn't relevant to her is one of the plot points. And I liked Gordon's storyline. He's a side character who has a lot of internalized queerphobia and is struggling because of toxic masculinity, but who is also dealing with bodily dysphoria - and it's implied that he might be trans, even though by the end of the book he's either still figuring himself out or not ready to come out to people. In any case, it wasn't Nima's business: what mattered, what gave closure to the storyline to me, is that by the end they were friends again.

    In a way,

    , and I really liked that about it. It reminded me a bit of

    : the book might have ended here, but Nima and her friends have a whole life ahead of them. Because of this, and

    .

    However, while the drag queen Deirdre is unambiguously a black trans woman, I would have loved if this book had used the word trans even just once. For something that is named

    , this book was surprisingly binarist at times, by not acknowledging non-binary trans people explicitly and using

    .

    Another thing I didn't love was the writing, and not for Nima's awkward metaphors, but because of the

    . I know she's supposed to live in boringland, but I had no idea how anything looked like.

    I also had mixed feelings about the romance: the love interest, Winnow (who is biracial Japanese), is one of the less developed characters, and there's

    , especially considering that Nima reads even younger than her age at times. But as this book doesn't really focus on it - the romance is more of a motivation for Nima to get into the drag scene, in a way - it didn't bother me too much (...maybe because I've read a book with a truly uncomfortable and weird age gap a week ago and this is nothing confronted with that? I don't know.)

  • CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    I loved the depiction of drag, the first blush of meeting other queer people, and exploring your place in the LGBTQ community. At times this YA about little awkward baby dyke Nima really brought me back to that period in my life. I loved the supportive adults in Nima's life: her hippie dad, lesbian family friend Jill, and drag mentor Deirdre. But: the plot about her mom who's abandoned her was underdeveloped and the characterization of Deirdre was confused: she's constantly referred to as a drag

    I loved the depiction of drag, the first blush of meeting other queer people, and exploring your place in the LGBTQ community. At times this YA about little awkward baby dyke Nima really brought me back to that period in my life. I loved the supportive adults in Nima's life: her hippie dad, lesbian family friend Jill, and drag mentor Deirdre. But: the plot about her mom who's abandoned her was underdeveloped and the characterization of Deirdre was confused: she's constantly referred to as a drag queen but it's also clear she presents as a woman all the time and she's never referred to as a trans woman. I also thought she felt too much like a stereotypical performing Black drag queen instead of a real person? More thoughts and full review to come!

  • Ivy

    Full review:

    Overall, I really enjoyed

    It was a diversely queer novel, with a fairly original concept and uniquely real characters. Tanya Boteju has a lot of talent, so her future is infinite. My hope for Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is that it can at least change some people’s mindset regarding the benefits of drag, and introduce young people to a new art form they didn’t know they needed. Rating: three/five

    For fans of:

    Full review:

    Overall, I really enjoyed

    It was a diversely queer novel, with a fairly original concept and uniquely real characters. Tanya Boteju has a lot of talent, so her future is infinite. My hope for Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is that it can at least change some people’s mindset regarding the benefits of drag, and introduce young people to a new art form they didn’t know they needed. Rating: three/five

    For fans of:

    by Brandy Colbert,

    by Sabina Khan,

    by Aminah Mae Safi

    Spotify playlist:

  • Eloise

    3.5

    Everything about this book was good, but not quite polished enough for me.

    Not every plot point of a story needs to be resolved, but most of the interesting ones we spent time going through in this book ended up not being even slightly talked about.

    Mostly the mother's story but also Gordon's.

    I am VERY interested in getting proper explanations about what's up with them, the repercussi

    3.5

    Everything about this book was good, but not quite polished enough for me.

    Not every plot point of a story needs to be resolved, but most of the interesting ones we spent time going through in this book ended up not being even slightly talked about.

    Mostly the mother's story but also Gordon's.

    I am VERY interested in getting proper explanations about what's up with them, the repercussions of what they did in the second half of this book.

    Also, I even wanted more of the drag scene. I wanted more interaction with Kings and Queens and every other types of people there, how they do their thing, how the shows go on... It's an interesting topic we don't often get in books, especially YA, so I was clearly left needing more of everything.

    I'm happy the romance (which isn't the main focus of this book btw) got resolved but that clearly wasn't what interested me the most.

    It's especially nice seeing it through the eyes of a queer biracial 17 year old girl.

  • Larry H

    3.5 stars.

    Tanya Boteju's debut novel,

    is an unabashedly charming book about finding yourself and being true to who you are. It's a book with humor, sensitivity, and so much heart, and it definitely left me with a smile on my face. (It's much less conspicuous to smile on a plane while reading rather than cry your eyes out!)

    Nima Kumara-Clark has just finished her junior year of high school, but she doesn't see much excitement on the horizon this summer outside of h

    3.5 stars.

    Tanya Boteju's debut novel,

    is an unabashedly charming book about finding yourself and being true to who you are. It's a book with humor, sensitivity, and so much heart, and it definitely left me with a smile on my face. (It's much less conspicuous to smile on a plane while reading rather than cry your eyes out!)

    Nima Kumara-Clark has just finished her junior year of high school, but she doesn't see much excitement on the horizon this summer outside of hanging out with her best friend, Charles. She's longing for something to shake her life up, and given that she's spent a few years nursing an obsessive love for Ginny, her straight best friend, it doesn't appear that love is in the cards for her either.

    One night during the local summer festival, she has a chance encounter with Deidre, a drag queen, who takes her to her first drag show. Nima is quickly taken under Deidre's wing, and she feels tremendously comfortable for the first time in her life, which is a change from her usual awkwardness. She is also utterly unprepared for the way the show makes her feel, especially when she sees a performance by Winnow, a sexy drag king.

    "With each passing moment, I'd get that feeling you sometimes have the moment you're about to flip the final page of a really good book, when your anticipation for what happens next overwhelms you, but you also know that turning the page means you're closer to an end. This was a story I didn't want to end."

    It seems as if Winnow shares the same attraction and feelings for Nima once the two meet. Nima has been disappointed too many times before, and she's not sure if she's ready to fully acknowledge her sexuality or let her guard down again. But she's also unafraid to let another opportunity to find love pass her by.

    As Nima's friendship with Deidre deepens, and her interest in Winnow grows (as does the number of awkward encounters between them), she also has to deal with a number of other issues—Charles' jealousy of this new "life" she has found, the confusing behavior and mood swings of a childhood friend-turned-bully, and the re-emergence of her mother, who left Nima and her father more than a year ago with no explanation. It's a lot of emotional pressure for a young woman on the cusp of embracing her true self and taking the first few steps toward self-acceptance.

    is a fun read, and some of the characters are so tremendously vivid that they capture your heart. There's so much spirit in this book, but there's also a lot of emotion, as the characters have to come to terms with their identity, acknowledge the pain caused by others, and find the courage to step outside their comfort zone.

    I enjoyed this book very much, and read it during the course of a plane ride. I did feel there were many issues that were left unresolved, including what was going on with Gordon, and Nima's relationship with her mother. That was a little frustrating. I also wasn't really sure about Deidre—was she a drag queen, a trans woman, or something else? I can only hope that Boteju might have a follow-up book planned to provide some answers.

    will leave you smiling, humming, and, depending on where you are when you're reading this, dancing. This book is full of positivity and hopefully, when it falls into the right hands, may help lots of teenagers and adults begin the journey toward self-acceptance.

    See all of my reviews at

    .

    Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at

    .

    You can follow me on Instagram at

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    queer brown girl learning about drag and nightlife seems like a really good concept thanks

  • madeline ♡

    WHOA WHOA WHOA. HOLD UP.

    did someone just say

    because THAT’S ME AND I’M ALL FOR IT.

  • ellie

    holy shit? am i reading this right? a desi girl whos queer? this has HIGH hype for me now even though i know NOTHING about drag so this will be interesting

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