Cover Image: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

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Member Reviews

This book is so queer! I love it. I already bought a copy for my classroom library. I hope some of my LGBTQ students can see themselves reflected in its pages. The book is not perfect, there are some characters that are flat, but the ending is so cute, it is worth it.
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I don't know why I'm having such a hard time reviewing this one! I honestly enjoyed it.

It's a great coming of age story. There's no real finality to most plot lines because it's all up in the air still. What's changed, what the point was, is Nina. Why all of a sudden people have a problem with this when it's performing as a drag king and not prom or sex, I dunno. Well, I mean I do, but I don't get it.

I love and relate to Nina, the awkward enclosed book nerd who's just finding and exploring the queer community. Not really butch, not really girly. Just average, who's tired of being average in a town where the odds are against her doing something beyond it.

Nina's dad is great. He's so laid back and supportive. But he's wounded and isn't good at standing up for himself or making changes.

Her mom left, and Nina doesn't know why for most of the book. It's pretty fucked up honestly. I can't imagine doing that to my daughter.

From what we see, Deidre is a Drag Queen like Marsha P Johnson was a drag queen, not like RuPaul. She's the Fairy Dragmother in this Cinderella tale and a hoot.

Gordon is an asshole. One that people have every right to write off for themselves, but you can't fault other queer people for helping him out either. There isn't a band-aid or big scene to conclude his story, because it takes time to deal with body dysphoria and gender stuff.

The small town vibe is right. The drag scenes were described amazingly. There's a lot of fun, a lot of angst. An older love interest. A BFF that's even slower to bloom than Nina and one that doesn't outlast the quashed girl crush.

I can't wait to read more from this author, TBH
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This book was an interesting look into a world that I don't know much about, drag culture.  It was a book about accepting everyone and growing up.  I would definitely recommend to an older high school student.
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Kept trying to start/ get into this one but other books kept pulling me away. I think because it wasn’t the format I had anticipated I had a harder time with it. Especially love the cover and the title!
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This is a story of Nima who is from a small town and tired of her life there, where she feels out of place and unsure of herself, with a crush on a straight girl who will never love her back. By chance she wanders into a tent at a local carnival, and BAM. She is thrown into a wild, colorful world of drag kings and queens. After meeting Dee Dee, a local Queen who introduces her to this new world, and really, changes Nima’s life forever. 

I thought this book was wonderful. It has a full cast, with almost every character being either LGBTQ+ or POC. The world building was awesome, and I thought that the main character was relatable and endearing. There was much drama and exaggeration in this book, but it never felt out of place for me. As much as I liked Nima, Dee Dee really stole the show for me. She was kind and brave, and a great role model for Nima and others. I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone! 

I was given an advanced reader's copy via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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So I almost got an ARC of this book, but then I missed out due to my inability to prepare for a vacation and make sure I download everything in time. Please forgive me publishers! I still got a copy of the book and I am glad I did. 

When I first came out as a lesbian when I was like 12. I learned about drag kings on Youtube. There was one king, Rider Gently, that just amazed me in so many ways. There was no way I was ever going to see him perform, but I watched every video uploaded dozens of times. He once even went in a dress and had a fight with wig snatching with a queen. I was OBSESSED. So Nima instantly falling in love with drag hit so close to home that I just immediately liked her. She was me at 12, but also so much more. 

This book was just fantastic in so many ways. The cast was diverse in a way that felt real and didn't feel like an author or publisher checking boxes. There was a drag queen, who seemed like she was also a trans woman (HELL YEAH!) who was by far the star of the show. She was brave, she was confident, she was bold, but most of all, she was kind. She took people under her wing and I just loved her more than anyone else in the book. I would love another book that explained her and her backstory. I need more of her. I teared up when she bestowed a special present on Nima at the end of the book. She was the drag mom and older sister (a lot of trans people I know refer to someone who is older in trans years as an older sibling, no matter what the actual age of the person is. I have no idea why, but it is also really comforting to have family that just gets it) I always needed in my life, but never got to have. 

There was a LOT of emotion and drama in the book, but it didn't feel like it was over the top or all that crazy. It seemed possible that everything in this book happened (though if I am being honest, it is kind of weird that a 35 year old woman was hanging out alone with a 17 year old girl and that the 17 year old girl was actually getting with 21+ people throughout the book). So ignoring the issues of ages of people, I loved that this book helped to show that people were complex. That someone who was a jerk might be experiencing trauma and doubt, that if they actually try and deal with their stuff they may get better. There was a character that appeared male, but was having serious body dysphoria. Nothing is decided in the book or revealed, but there was just so much pain from his character. It hurt my heart so much. I loved how part of his plot was meeting a drag queen that was into women. The amount of diversity was just what I always wanted in a book. It was just what my teen years felt like. I was pretty much the only out person, I was for sure the only out trans person in my school. Then I would go to True Colors (HUGE queer youth conference, consider donating to help a queer kid. They saved my life) and be surrounded by so much queerness that I would be overwhelmed, fall in love with every person I saw, and just see the world as this drastically different place. Nima's entrance into the drag world was everything. I felt at home in this book.
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It’s very unfortunate that books that are only available in PDF expire. Although I downloaded it, I can no longer access this title and can’t download again now that it’s been archived. May I respectfully request that you make your titles available for a Kindle download so they don’t expire? Thank you.
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“With each passing moment, I’d get that feeling you sometimes have the moment you’re about to flip to 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.”

I received a free e-copy through NetGalley from the publishers at Simon Pulse. Trigger warnings: homophobia, slurs, gender dysphoria, alcoholism, violence, bullying, abandonment, underage drinking, underage romance, vomiting.

Nima is tired of her boring life in small-town Bridgeton, tired of crushing on a straight girl who will never like her back, and tired of waiting and wondering why her mother abandoned her and her father over a year ago without a word. When she wanders into a side tent at a local carnival, she isn’t expecting a drag show or to suddenly be whisked into the colorful world of drag kings and queens by Dee Dee, the friendly queen who takes Nima under her wing. With new crushes, hilarious (and mortifying) mishaps, and some amazing friends (both new and old), Nima is ready to face the loss of her mother and discover that, maybe, there’s something of a drag king in her as well.

This is a summery, feel-good novel if I’ve ever read one, and I could recommend it on the diversity alone. Almost every major character is POC or LGBTQ+ or both, and Boteju provides a wonderful introduction into the world of drag, a lot of which was new for me. For the most part, it’s written as a safe and welcoming place for teens/new adults (despite numerous scenes of underage drinking), and I think every LGBTQ+ teenager would benefit from having a drag queen fairy godmother like Dee Dee to help them navigate.

There are a couple small things that make it read like a first novel, the first being the overuse of silly metaphors. In part, this is due to Nima’s perspective, since she prides herself on her metaphors, but it leaks into the narrative in distracting ways. The other is that it’s quite dramatic, which is also just a product of the YA genre. I remember feeling everything too strongly as a teenager, and Nima is no exception to that. She reacts in extremes at times (typically anger or embarrassment), which is probably fine for the target audience but may put off some older readers.

All dramatics aside, I like Nima. She’s endearingly awkward, so we really get a sense of how she finds herself and her self-confidence over the course of the novel. Of course, Dee Dee steals the show, as she’s probably meant to. She’s a force of nature, and her flair is matched only by her kindness. There’s also a subplot of a boy who seems to be struggling with gender dysphoria. All in all, a great cast of characters, and they’re one of the major strengths of the book. I was hoping for a little more closure on some of the plot threads (or possibly a sequel), but the novel leaves off on a high note. I’ll definitely revisit it in the future when I need to feel better about the world.

I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.
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This was so much fun to read! I loved Deidre so much (totally imagined Ru Paul the whole time.) The f/f romance was wonderful. The look at the drag scene was interesting and lots of fun.
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“Laugh at yourself.  Laugh at others.  Let them laugh at you.  And dance, dance, dance like a god**** fool.”

I just finished the book “Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens” by Tanya Boteju, and I. Am. In. Love!  Admittedly, I wasn’t in love from page 1; it took me a little while to get into this story, but after we met Deidre, I was hooked.  This is an amazing story of people who already know who they are and embrace it; people who are becoming the wonderful souls they are meant to be; and people who are still figuring out who they may become one day.

Nima lives in a small town, a small, dull town.  Also, Nima likes girls (although she’s never really thought much about what that means in terms of labels or groups or such).  Specifically, she likes her good friend, Ginny.  But, Nima’s life seems to be stuck in neutral.  Her mom has left; she only has two friends – one of whom she secretly loves but is leaving for college in the fall.  After a particularly tragic, mortifying attempt to confess her undying love and affection for Ginny, Nima is feeling desperate to be more “sparkles” and less “brown paper bag.”  This desire leads her into two interesting tents at the town summer festival.  At the first she meets the seductive, beautiful pixie poet, Winnow, and at the second she meets the vibrant, daring Deidre.  After this night, nothing in Nima life will ever be the same again.  Over the next several weeks, Nima learns that drag kings are a real thing, friendships come in all shapes and sizes, and that “sometimes a**holes are just lost souls.”  

There were several things I loved about this story.  Number One is the characters.  I would give ANYTHING to get to meet Deidre.  That woman is a powerhouse – joyful, confident, daring, and a true true friend.  Everyone needs a Deidre.  I also really liked the character of Gordon.  I don’t want to include any spoilers here.  All I’ll say is I hope and fervently pray that the author writes a sequel and gives us Gordon’s story!  There is an important story there to tell!  The second thing I loved was the overall theme of having empathy and acceptance for all of those around us.  Time and again characters lovingly but firmly reminded others that it is necessary to try to understand what someone else is going through and love them through it.  This is a theme that we need so adeptly expressed in more YA literature.  The final thing I loved about this book was the language.  As an English teacher, I appreciated (and reveled in) the advanced vocabulary and frequent use of figurative language.  I’m a geek – I know – but who wouldn’t love words like “supercilious,” “faux pas” and “dolt”?!?  And lines like “I must have seemed like a Camry next to her Cadillac”!

The one and only thing I didn’t like was Nima’s incessant talking down about herself, doubting herself, feeling sorry for herself, etc. at the beginning.  I understand that her self-doubt is an important part of the story arc, but the constant comments just started to get on my nerves and felt more pity party than sympathetic.  But, other than that, I have nothing negative to say about this book.  It is WONDERFUL!  It is a necessary addition to the YA world.  And I will definitely be buying a copy for my classroom library!
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Kings, Queens, & In-Betweens was an excellent coming-of-age YA that explored how finding a queer community can, in so many ways, help you find yourself as a queer person. Nima's discovery of drag and the ways it enriched her life and contributed to her understanding of herself mirrored my own in so many ways, and it meant a lot to see such an inclusive, positive portrayal of the drag world in YA. Overall, this was such a feel-good book, and I'll be recommending it highly!
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This was a compelling coming-of-age tale. Nima's nerdiness, awkwardness, and self-consciousness really reminded me of myself at the same age. The story balanced themes of family, friendship, crushes, and self-expression very well, taking the reader through the highs and lows of adolescence. The writing immersed me in the drag scene with its vivid descriptions and evocative imagery.

The main issue I had with the book was the casual cissexism that popped up multiple times, with characters assuming other people's genitals and calling them things like "lady bits." It might have been intended to convey the open/frank, and "naughty" atmosphere of the drag community and it may even be authentic to real life (I wouldn't know as I'm not familiar with the drag scene), but instead it just alienated me as a trans reader and threw me out of the story because I found it triggering. Since the protagonist is a cis girl trying out drag, it's a different experience from mine as an AFAB nonbinary person, so I acknowledge that maybe that's part of why I couldn't completely relate or put myself in her place as a reader.
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This is a solid 3.5 stars.  A lovely, and important, debut I was thrilled with the representation in this book.  I think teens (and even adults) will get so much out of this and I absolutely love how Boteju was able to throw those "traditional" gender norms out the window in order to show just how beautiful people are and that there is no right or wrong way to be.  I wish there had been a bit more cohesion in the storytelling and some parts seemed to drag just a little bit, making the storytelling a bit uneven and creating moments that were difficult to really connect back to the story.  Overall, as a debut, this was very impressive and Boteju is definitely an author to be on the lookout for.
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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is a story about identity (sexual and gender), friendships, and giving people a second chance. Nima tackles mistakes, confusion, and questions. In a world where we lash out, act out, because of fear, Nima has to handle keeping secrets for people. Nima's desire to be less boring, to act without hesitation, is one I could relate to greatly, having felt like this during the last few years. It's full of drag queens, drag kings, queer characters, and characters still processing themselves. It's an intimate look at such a vulnerable time in Nima's life. And in that way, this book pulls you along because of Nima's exploration and character growth. We look at paths diverging, learning how to express ourselves, and introductory lessons in drag. Some of my favorite relationships were between Nima and the Deidre (one of the drag queens) and Winnow (one of the drag kings).
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I ADORED this book. It struck the perfect balance between light-hearted and very serious. I will definitely be recommending this to anyone and everyone I know who is interested in issues of gender identity, sexual orientation, and identity development -- or who has their own fantasies of being a drag performer!
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Unfortunately I only made it a few pages in before I could no longer open it on the Aldiko reader app. I tried redownloading it, but that never worked. However,  I’ll be including it in my June LGBT book lists for Teens even though I was not able to read it.
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2.5 stars*

Thanks so much to Simon Pulse and Netgalley for graciously gifting me with the ARC of this one! 

I wanted to love this....so much. I loved the idea of a young lesbian of color being allowed to find herself and love amongst the backdrop of drag culture. I loved the fact that we get to see so many gender and sexuality representations throughout this story. But ultimately, it missed the mark for me.

Kings, Queens, and Inbetweens follows Nima after she stumbles upon a drag show at a carnival and is captivated by one of their kings while dealing with the repercussions of her mother walking out on her and her father several months prior. 

The concept was fantastic, some of the characters were quite interesting, but the plot seemed really choppy and I found the pacing weird. The romance actually didn't do anything for me...like at all. And in general, the relationships between the characters, (barring Nima and Deidre's friendship), didn't really make any sense. Charles seemed like a throwaway character, Gordon's arc didn't feel natural, and Winnow basically didn't exist. I felt like by the time I got to the end of the book, nothing had happened. I don't know. Maybe I'm missing something, but I was fairly disappointed in this one unfortunately.

Content and Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, parental separation, cheating/infidelity, homophobia/transphobia, underage drinking, and again, vomit.
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Thanks Netgalley for the preview! 

I loved this book! I was drawn in by the cover and description and was hooked within the first few pages.  I love a coming of age/ finding yourself story and this one had the perfect mix of quirk, silly and serious.  I enjoyed all of the characters and found Nima to be a superb narrator.  This book focused on characters that you wanted to get to know, help and even befriend.  I think my one criticism is that Nima never gets closure with her Mom and doesn't get to talk to her Dad about the secrets she now knows.  I think keeping those big secrets from someone she is very close with will hinder her self discovery.  Maybe the story will be revisited in a sequel? Or a follow-up about Gordon and his journey? Here's hoping!
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Nina feels trapped in her small town. She attempted to confess her love to her crush, only to have her dreams crushed as that girl said "let's just stay friends." She isn't sure what she wants to do with herself after school is over. During a summer festival, she finds herself drawn to a tent featuring a drag show. Soon Nina is sucked into the life of drag kings and queens. She crushes on a drag king she sees perform, finds herself a fairy dragmother, and begins to consider performing as well. 

This story is very readable and relatable, particularly for readers who have lived in small towns. Nina has an amazingly supportive family, which is wonderful, but a side character has a more typically unsupportive family, and he lashes out at everyone around him because of the family stress he faces. Nina isn't a perfect character, but she does grow. This is a great book to give to readers looking to escape their small-town existence and imagine something bigger. 

Read-Alikes: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown, Run by Kody Keplinger, Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for review purposes.
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I loved this book so much. It was incredible from start to finish and I highly recommend it to anyone out there that is even the slightest bit curious about or interested in drag.
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