Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 May 2019

Member Reviews

Great story! Loved the characters and the writing! A great YA novel for all ages. I loved the drag queen concept, and also that the narrator is a gay biracial female.
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Just finished up this gem of a book and was thrilled to discover that @tboteju is a teacher from Vancouver! 

A fun romp through the world of drag queens and kings, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens also examines the complicated ways that teens discover who they are, who they could be and who they want to become. The characters felt very real - from Nima, a gay teen who lacks confidence in herself and her relationship choices, to Gordon, a questioning teen hiding behind a rough exterior and running from a rough home life, to Deirdre, the larger-than-life drag queen who wraps everyone in love and support, to Nima's dad, an affable, aging hippy, there is someone in this book for young adults and adults alike to identify with.

The small town felt a bit cliche but didn't take away from the story. I also found the timeline a bit confusing but it did fit with the action in the story - sometimes it seemed like things took place over weeks but it was actually only days. Reality? When life gets crazy it kinda feels that way in real life.

If you're looking for the next #diversebooks to add to your collection, this one is a great choice.

Thanks to @netgalley for providing the book to review.
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Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved everything about this book. The title, the plot, the characters. I can't find the words to describe how much I love this and want everyone to read it.
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This was a great story about finding your identity.

The story was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the scenes where Nami learned about drag queens and kings. I had never heard of drag kings before reading this novel. At first, Nami was unsure of the drag show, but she ended up loving it. She also befriended a king and a queen.

Some of the story was upsetting. Nami’s mother left her and her father without warning. When her reason is finally revealed, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was a good enough reason, because she was essentially running away from her problems. Nami was dealing with her own problems, so it wasn’t fair for her to see her mom run away like that.

Nami had some embarrassing moments in the story, including vomiting in a hot tub. I felt so sympathetic for her in those moments, because they were humiliating. However, when something embarrassing happened or she made a mistake, she always got back up and kept going.

I loved this book. It’s a great story about finding your gender identity.

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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First off I learned a lot about the drag scene in this book. I had no idea drag kings existed, which is so cool.

I think the characters really make this story. They’re all very developed and even though the book is from Nima’s POV, they all have their own story lines. I thought it was really well done.

Nima was fantastically flawed. She does things that you just know in your heart that you would probably do in the same situation.

Moving on to our lord and saviour DeeDee. She was my absolute favourite! She was just loud and unapologetic with a heart of gold. And I think everyone needs a DeeDee in their life.

The only reason it’s not a full five stars is that I felt it could be a little shorter, but that could just be me.

Overall Thoughts:
I would definitely check this out upon release. It comes out May 7th! It’s definitely worth the read, you will not be disappointed by this one!
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King, Queens, and In-Betweens is a book about acceptance and finding oneself. It was a very fun read all the way through. I wanted to love it more, but there was never anything that really captured my full attention and held it, aside from Deidre. I absolutely loved the portrayal of drag and the community it builds around itself. The representation in this book as an own voices novel really came through, everything seemed authentic and real and the things that our main character goes through are hard and raw. This is the kind of coming of age story that is missing from most bookshelves and it makes my heart soar to have been able to read it. 

I had a few qualms with the pacing of the story and felt that some characters' story arcs were too quick to jump around, specifically Gordon's and I did not see a part where they spoke about Deidre being trans in so many words which jumped out to me. I would've liked to see more development between Nima and her dad because it seemed like such a good relationship to explore. I liked that there wasn't anything to tie it all up nicely in a bow and that we were left with things unanswered as we are daily in our lives. 
Another thing that bothered me were the ages of our main character and her love interest, although 17 and (supposedly) 21 aren't too far off from each other these characters are in such different stages in life. This might not bother everyone, but it definitely stood out to me as uncomfortable.

Thank You Netgalley, Simon Pulse for providing this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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I’ve honestly never read a book like this before, but I can definitely say that I’m so, so happy that this book has come onto the scene.

Kings, Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju is the story of Nimanthi “Nima” Kumara-Clark. a junior in highshool in the small town of Bridgeton. Nima is your average, everyday teenager of mixed race, trying to come to terms with many parts of her life. It’s been a year and a half since her mother left her and her father, and she can’t help but question her mother’s reasons. She spends her days with her best friend, Charles, and Ginny, the girl she has a crush on.

When Nina explores Bridgeton’s summer festival on her own, however, she is introduced to an entirely new world she had previously known very little about. She discovers new friends and surprising allies, as well as a part of herself that she didn’t realize existed. This new self is one who can openly express love and accept love in return.

Wonderfully written, this book will have you pulled in from the start. I really enjoyed the prose, especially Nima’s hilarious internal monologue. She’s a great main character and narrator, and though she is a teenager, Nima comes across as being more mature for her age. The only thing that bothered me was the use of brackets here and there, but that comes from a personal dislike of the use of brackets within the narration.

Steadily paced and well thought out, the plot line takes you on a bit of a rollercoaster ride, introducing readers to a strong cast of various characters along the way. Apart from Nina, Charles and Ginny, we also meet Nima’s father, her neighbour, Jill, and a gangly pair of teenage boys by the names of Davis and Gordon. Not only that, but readers also meet many other wonderful characters readers would not expect, such as Deidre, the fabulous drag queen whom Nima soon gains as an ally and confidant.

Deidre, or Dee Dee La Bouche, was far and beyond my favourite character in this book. She’s honestly just fabulous and I genuinely wish I knew somebody like her in real life. Dee Dee proves to be a wonderful ally for Nima, as she helps her begin to accept herself and gain the confidence to accept and reciprocate love in so many ways.

As readers progress through the novel, the plot line begins to take twists and turns. Author Tanya Boteju keeps readers on their toes, from one characters’ selfish intentions, to another’s struggle with self identity; unexpected allies and surprising revelations.

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is one young adult novel that is incredibly difficult to put down. Readers will find themselves locked into an incredibly unforgettable journey of self-love and acceptance. This is definitely a must-read of 2019 and this book deserves ALL the hype.
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Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with an ARC copy of Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens in exchange for an honest review.

RuPaul's Drag Race introduced me to the world of drag queens, but my experience of drag kings is much more limited, which is partly why I was intrigued when I saw Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens. I've never seen a book about the drag community before, let alone read one. 

17-year-old Nima feels like she's boring and wonders if that's the reason why her mom abandoned her and her dad almost a year ago. The summer seems to stretch before her, but when she stumbles upon the mystical and magical world of drag and a host of welcoming and charming characters, Nima begins to let loose and discover a whole new side of herself. 

Boteju really nailed what it's like to be an awkward, unsure teenager. Nima bumbles through social interactions with sweaty hands and a trembling lip. She feels inadequate next to others, not exciting enough to be liked, and in an effort to seem cool, she often ends up making things worse for herself. I really liked her as a character because I could see her heart and how hard she was trying. She makes you want to be the Deirdre in her life and take her under your wing. Deirdre was my second favourite character, after Nima. I would love if she had her own book, a companion to this one.

I think the story between Nima and her mom needed more time/needed to be fleshed out more. It didn't get enough attention in my opinion. It felt kind of secondary and it definitely felt unfinished. Maybe Boteju wanted us to feel that way and/or maybe there's a sequel in the works. Either way, I want to know more!
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This book was not what I expected, but it did not disappoint. This book is deals with so many topics gracefully and with so much compassion. My only complaint is that I wanted more. I also love that the author is a Canadian, a teacher, a woman of colour, a member of the LGBTQ+ community (and former king), AND that she included a land acknowledgement in both her bio and her acknowledgements. What a bad ass.
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3.5/5 stars.

This had an interesting premise with very vibrant characters, but there was just too much telling instead of showing. I never felt like I was fully immersed in the world and the story. There also wasn't a lot of drag. I wanted to learn more about that world and see Nima explore her own persona through drag king performances. 

The romance in this book made me feel very uncomfortable because of the age gap. I wish that romance was more of a friendship. 

Great concept, but poor execution.
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Nima Kumara-Clark is a queer, bi-racial teenager struggling to figure out her place in life. Lacking in self-confidence and learning how to move forward after a complicated familial loss, Nima makes questionable decisions along her road to self-discovery. She eventually finds herself immersed in the world of drag kings, queens and in-betweens, leading her to discover love not just for others, but for herself as well. 

This debut novel by Tanya Boteju was an absolute joy to read! It was refreshing to find myself immersed in a story teeming with diverse characters, and although there were some loose ends by the end of it, I felt that it only added to the realistic nature of their lives. This book was meant to portray very real, raw and flawed lives much like our own, and I believe that it accomplished just that. The dialogue was spot on and Boteju’s character descriptions brought each one to life in full, vibrant colour. It isn’t often that a book will have me expressing myself out loud, but there was a particular moment that literally had me gasping and covering my mouth in horror. I knew at that point that this was a book worth reading. I often found myself chuckling along with Nima’s inner voice and her creative expletives, while the character of Deirdre was so well written that I couldn’t help but wish we all had a Dee Dee in our lives. 

Through these characters, Boteju breaks down perceived norms and stereotypes while intentionally withholding certain labels. Given that the title of the book is all-encompassing, I found the lack of using certain labels such as “trans/transgender” to speak to that very intent. The story is interspersed with numerous teachable moments that enlighten and offer a different perspective, such as when Nima discovers that drag queens can date girls, or when she informs Gordon that his statement about two girls together being hot, while two guys is sick, places him in the same category as people who would judge him for his own complicated identity. 

Within the first two chapters, there were several occasions where the language between past and present didn’t quite flow and I found myself a bit confused as to where Nima was narrating from; however, this was an issue that seemed to improve as the book moved along. As mentioned, there were a number of unresolved plot lines that might leave a reader frustrated, but it is my hope that Boteju intends to produce a follow-up book or two that will explore the lives of some of the secondary characters, such as Gordon and Deirdre. 

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this novel, and I look forward to future publications by this up and coming author. Thank you Tanya Boteju for your talent, and thank you to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the opportunity to review this advance reader copy.
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Welcome to this book review,
I received an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review. 
This book was very interesting, while I wanted to fall in love with it. It sometimes felt too long (which is a weird feeling since it was so short). 
Nima was a nice main character, she felt real, but I was sometimes annoyed by her decisions and the way and the pace the story progressed. I did, however, love how it represented Drag Kings and Queens, it really educated a lot on what a Drag King is (since most of us already know a lot about Drag Queens).
As a Bisexual biracial person myself, I wanted to connect more to Nima, and it unfortunately didn't happen, while this book has so much potential I felt like it only delivered half to 60% of what it could've shared about the communities. I sometimes felt that while at the beginning she was figuring herself out, at some point it took too much of the book and came across (to me) as another author that wouldn't explicitly say they're character was bisexual until they didn't have a choice to do so. Though I loved the representation of homophobia, that Nima faced before even knowing her own sexuality, I hated how her being in love with her straight best-friend, having a crush on a guy, was still not enough for the author to make her character say internally "Yes I am bisexual", It, in my opinion took too much time (being in Nima's head) for her to have that internal realization everyone has about their sexuality, without announcing it to the world (there could have been that moment, where she sees herself in that new light without speaking about it openly with everyone around her). I did however love the way everyone was so respectful (within the community in the book) of everyone's identity and pronouns !
IT is WORTH a READ, but it unfortunately isn't the best book with LGBT subjects out there today. 
Overall, I gave this book a 3/5 stars, it was good without anything more. 
-Bookarina
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3.5 Stars

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is a book I had been anticipating for its unique premise. This book about new experiences and self-exploration is uplifting, and there is a strong cast of characters within. That being said, parts of the plot lag, which dulls the shine of what could have been a fantastic story.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about the drag scene, but this book really opened my eyes as it follows a girl who learns about nightlife herself. The concept of the book is original, and I enjoyed how it has a focus on drag kings, who get less exposure than the queens. As well, there is representation for a wide range of genders, sexualities, and ethnicities. Ultimately, this is an entertaining novel that encourages trying new things.

❀ ENJOYABLE MAIN CHARACTER

Nima, the main character, is so enjoyable, and I loved being able to join her in her new experiences. She is both sweet and sarcastic, and she learns a lot about herself over the course of the novel. Nima has her share of struggles, such as having a crush on a straight girl, but her journey to self discovery and confidence is inspiring. The side characters in the book are also quirky and amusing, and I must say Deirdre really contributed to my enjoyment of the story.

The one thing that bothered me about the book is the way it was executed. I feel like there are a lot of scenes that are unnecessary to the plot and make the story tedious. Personally, I found the scenes that weren’t about Nima’s experiences with drag to be flat, and the vibrance of the book is lost because of it. As well, I was left with unanswered questions at the end as there are some loose ends that remain.

❀ LIVELY BOOK ABOUT SELF-DISCOVERY

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is an lively book about self discovery. I enjoyed the main character’s personality and the quirky side characters. While I did enjoy the book, I didn’t appreciate the way the plot drags or the loose ends left at the end. I would still recommend this one for its concept, however I think it could have been better executed.
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i loved that this book was about drag and how diverse the scene is. its annoying how the only mainstream drag represented is from rpdr and thats such a small part of drag. i loved the emphasis on drag kings. im low-key into maxxx pleasure so it was cool to see that world open to a ya audience.

it was also great how diverse the characters were. all the different races, sexualities, and genders were amazing.

unfortunately i just didn't relate to the book. it took me nearly 300 pages to gain interest and then i quickly lost it again. i think nima was too awkward for me and honestly i didnt like winnow as a love interst that much. she was too much of a cool, older, unattainable girl. 

also not crazy about that age gap. as a 17-year-old nima just seemed way too young and not mature enough to date someone in her early 20's. i couldnt see why someone like winnow would even be interested in nima and i didnt like that.

i did really like the theme of exploring identity. though im not sure i totally loved how gordon's story line went but i appreciated it anyway.

one thing that kinda bothered me was that the word transgender is never used. there's a theme about gender identity, and a character who im 99% sure is trans, but the word was never used so i was kind of wondering what was up with that.
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ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

This was such a heartwarming and diverse read. The cast of characters were a broad spectrum of individuals, each of whom brought something to the table. This story had some of the most lovable characters, Nima, her dad, and Deidre in particular. It also had some flawed and problematic characters. There was a great balance to the characters in this story. 

The story follows a young woman, Nima, trying to navigate her way through high school and her sexuality. Nima faces a lot of hardships in her life and has closed herself off as a means of protection. Luckily, Nima finds herself engulfed in the drag scene and welcomed with open arms by members of this community. Deidre and Winnow are both welcoming and patient with Nima as she branches out into this new world and learns that it’s okay to take chances in life. 

Throughout the novel, Nima’s inner monologue had me laughing out loud. She had a sarcastic and self-deprecating demeanor that will charm readers. Nima’s dad is always there in the background supporting her. He never passes judgment, never rushes her to talk about what’s bothering her. He’s a pretty amazing father and it’s nice to see that she’s always had someone in her corner.

Not all of Nima’s friendships are healthy, supportive relationships however. Ginny and Charles are both rather problematic and not the most supportive of friends. While Charles did show some growth throughout the novel, I never did come to like him. Gordon, however did end up winning me over. As the story progressed, we got to see more of what was going on with Gordon and he became a more likable character as you watched him grow and come to accept some aspects of his life and embrace himself and the people around him.

Another great aspect of this story is how much representation it has. This is one of the most diverse stories I have read in YA. There’s LGBTQ+ representation, racial diversity, drag culture. I think this is a novel that a lot of young readers will be able to see themselves in and I think it’s a story that can help a lot of people. This is an important read. It is lighthearted and fun, but also covers a lot of tough topics. I’m glad I decided to pick this one up.
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The descriptive bit: Nima is “brown and queer”, in love with her straight best friend, Ginny and awkward as hell. The day she met Ginny, Nima threw up on her Reeboks; that’s the way her life goes. At the exact moment that she finally gets the courage to tell Ginny how she feels, Ginny stops her by telling her that she “loves her as a friend.”

Finding herself stuck in, what she perceives to be a rut, Nima vows to spend her summer … differently. She wants to try new things, change her world and be someone interesting. She wants to make new and different choices!

My thoughts bit: Determined as she is to have a non-boring, not-bland summer, Nima is convinced she needs to try new things. She heads to a local festival and one of the shows is announced as boys in dresses and girls in suits. Intrigued, Nima gets into the line up for the show and meets my favorite character in the book, Dee Dee La Bouche (Deirdre). This glorious gender-defying being takes Nima under her wing and introduces her to the world of Drag Kings and Drag queens.

The show is all sequin gowns, Lady Ga-Ga, fairy wings, glamour, tattoos, black silk, and dancing. In the midst of the craziness of the show, Nima sees Winnow perform and feels a strong attraction to her. The problem is that Nima feels she isn’t good enough for someone like Winnow to be interested in and is convinced she needs to change herself.

There are some marvelous characters in this book. I loved the way that the performers welcomed Nima into their world. They were all very respectful about gender and sexual orientation and it was a joy to read about a group of people being so inclusive.

While the main plot of the story is about Nima exploring who she is, exploring her sexuality and gender, there are a couple of other interesting stories happening.

Nima’s mother left her and her father without a word. As Nima learns about herself she learns some truths about her mother that are shocking and hurtful. The storyline wasn’t as resolved as I might have liked … but life doesn’t always get tied up neatly with a bow on top.

Another interesting story is about Gordon… the local bully. He comes from an abusive home and while he was once on friendly terms with Nima, he has become an aggressive bully. Nima runs into Gordon one day at the art room and discovers that he is clearly having identity issues. I enjoyed reading about Gordon interacting with Deirdre and frankly, would have enjoyed a book about him. Again, Gordon’s story didn’t resolve itself at all – so I was a little disappointed in that because Boteju had created such an intriguing character. I’m guessing that Gordon is queer just from the limited things he says, but it’s difficult to guess how his life will have played out. I would really like to have read more about him.

Overall, the story is lovely. There are some parts that are difficult to read. Some of Nima’s misadventures were quite heart-wrenching and I found myself concerned for her safety on numerous occasions. It was lovely to read the way that she found a way through the puzzles and trials going on in her life to a new beginning.

The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: mentions of potential Body dysmorphic disorder, substance abuse, domestic abuse, Queerphobic behavior, and name-calling, underage drinking, binge drinking
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I was really looking forward to Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, the debut novel by Tanya Boteju.

The plot follows a bi-racial teen queer, Nima, as she stumbles across the world of drag. Like come on, that sounds like one hell of a ride but unfortunately the story falls flat.

While I understand that Nima is a teenager, I thought she fell into the "dumb-dramatic-teenage-trope" a little too hard. Throughout the novel Nima continued to annoy me to no end with her ignorance, her self-pity, and thoughtless actions (didn't anyone ever teach her about stranger danger? Yet still she ends up inviting a total stranger into her house for a night. What further blew my mind was the reaction from her father...as in there was none!?) I kept shaking my head in disbelief as the story and the characters were so unrealistic, I just had a hard time connecting. 

While Nima makes numerous questionable choices throughout the book, I can't believe she still ended up with the girl (Winnow, a charming, poetic, older girl who likes to dress up in drag). I think the only characters I actually liked was Winnow (despite her choices in romantic partners) and Jill (who shouldered Nima's anger for absolutely no reason besides unfortunately being on the receiving end of Nima's selfish mother, like-mother-like-daughter I guess...)

I so badly want to say I enjoyed Deirdre, the drag queen in the story but to me Deidre or Deedee comes off completely inappropriate with their interactions and relationships with these 17 year olds, just so many red flags popping up in my head as I read.

The conflicts in the story were poorly resolved or not even at all??? Still confused on how I thought important issues was wrapped up.

Anyways, even though I really wanted to like this book I unfortunately do not.
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I'm sorry, but I just was not a big fan of this book. I--along with many others--was first interested in the book because of the diversity and amazing representation. This book features a cast of characters of different sexual orientations, gender identities, and ethnicities. The main character is a half-Sri Lankan queer girl, who's friends and love interest are queer people of colour. As a queer girl of colour myself, who binge-watches RuPaul's Drag Race on the regular, I was super excited for this book!

Unfortunately, the representation was the only thing it had going for it. (A few spoilers ahead!!) The writing was fine--I think decent for a debut novel. But some parts were just boring and weren't woven into the story correctly. An example that comes to mind is when Nima had to go to the car wash, and she went into the school to get supplies and spotted Gordon. Obviously, that whole scene was a set up to introduce Gordon's identity struggles, but why did the car wash have to be a thing? It wasn't needed. Scenes that barely contributed to the story were just so long (the whole festival before Winnow is introduced, everything with Ginny considering how insignificant Ginny was, etc). Also, I wasn't particularly drawn to any of the characters. It made me so so uncomfortable that Nima allowed someone literally over ten years older than her to stay at her house overnight after meeting them once! Deidre's age was never revealed until later on in the book, but I don't know, that set off a lot of red flags. I don't care how cool and understanding Deirdre was! A seventeen-year-old doesn't let a 35-year-old stay at their house after meeting them once!! 

I didn't enjoy the relationship between Winnow and Nima. Similarly, with Deirdre, the age difference between Nima and Winnow made me uncomfortable. And, to be honest, it wasn't exactly the age difference (it was only four years), but the fact that Winnow was so much more experiences than Nima. The scene where Nima gets drunk with Winnow's friend because she's trying to keep up with the "cool, older kids" really stressed me out because I just felt so bad for the girl. As someone who was just coming to terms with her identity, I don't think it would be beneficial for her to date an older, more experienced girl, who is already sure of herself and her community. While I do think it's an important and common story that a lot of LGBT individuals assimilate into the community by meeting someone older, or more experienced... I really do not see that working for Nima. I think it's great to have an older mentor (like Gordon has with Deirdre), but I wish that Gordon and Nima would have maybe joined together to explore the LGBT community more, rather than Nima dating Winnow. 

I knew that Gordon was going to be queer. But, I wanted more out of the whole Gordon plot. Gordon's identity issues were never addressed and quickly glossed over, as if the author hoped the audience would just understand that Gordon was trans?? I honestly don't even know if he is trans because it was not explained at all? It was kind of just hinted. It's really weird how the words "trans" or "transgender" were not used in the story at all considering two important characters are trans! And the thing was, I didn't even realize Dierdre was trans until literally 60% into the story. I don't understand why the identities of the trans people weren't just explained quickly (the readers would have understood!) and instead were just up for interpretation 

Lastly, there was so much that was just not resolved. The plot line of Winnow's mother seemed like a bunch of loose ends, the fact that her dad and Jill never got closure, the fact that Ginny-who was apparently one of her best friends in the beginning- kind of disappeared throughout the book, the fact that Gordon's identity issues were not fully explained... these all just seemed like random story points that never got solved. 

Besides that, what I did love was Nima's curiosity as she began to find herself and her community. I could definitely understand being in Nima's shoes, and I'm happy she found a chosen family to help her along the way!
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