Genre | YA Contemporary fiction
Page #s | 374
Publishing Date | May 2019
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 surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.
Kings, Queens and In-Betweens is a sweet coming-of-age story about a queer girl in a small town who discovers the drag scene and community. Nima is a painfully awkward person, and I laughed out loud at her panicked reactions multiple times (as well as almost needing to throw the book across the room in sympathy embarrassment at one particularly cringeworthy scene). She is totally endearing, and it is a joy to watch her gain confidence in her relationships and performances.
I so appreciate books that don’t make coming out a huge deal, but at the same time, I know it’s important to acknowledge the real consequences some people face when sharing their identity with others. This book covers both experiences, with Nima’s friends and family being accepting and inclusive (in fact, she has parent drama that is NOT about coming out – a marvel!) and side character Gordon experiencing intense homophobia from his father. I think this approach is incredibly important, as it shows that negative expereinces do not have to be the norm by also modeling healthy familial love.
I also loved that, although Nima’s friends and family accept her and her attraction to women, she still finds a special kind of relationship with the queer community that she becomes a part of. There is something about the power of being with people who share your identity to make you feel safe, seen, and powerful in a very unique way. These different kinds of relationships don’t have to be in competition, and I appreciated that Boteju purposefully merged the two worlds.
While this book does capture the magic of queer community, I did find the character of Deidre leaned a little too far into the “drag queen fairy godmother” territory. She is constantly available to help Nima out of one scrape or another, and we don’t get a real sense of her personal friendship group or community. She’s over ten years older than Nima and co! I want her to have a vibrant social life with peers!
Aside from that minor quibble, this book is just so enjoyable. Pick it up and give it a read!
Who Do I Recommend This Book To?
Gift Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens to your cousin from Rural Town for them to read on the way to the drag performance you take them to.
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