Book Reviews

Review: Kings, Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is a quiet YA book. There are stakes and drama, but it’s a book that deals with issues of identity, relationships, and doesn’t give us easy answers.


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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: homophobia

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.

Main characters and character growth

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. Nima also has a few conversation about being biracial and the questions you get where people try to figure you out. 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).

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is tender. When we love someone we can’t have, someone who won’t open that door, to feel that sorrow, that yearning, that disappointment over a door never having a chance to be open. It’s a story about diverging paths, how our gender and sexual identity are always up for flexibility, for change, evolution. Nima’s struggle is relatable in her fear and anxiety about who we should be, how we are trying to figure out how we can step into the skin we want. She makes mistakes and isn’t sure what to do. It’s so utterly relatable, how we find ourselves caught up and drowning or just floundering, alone and feeling un-tethered with no direction. In many ways, this book is quiet. It has high stakes, but it’s about moment where we make mistakes and own them, where nothing is clear cut, where we have to stumble and fall to figure out what we are made of.

Find Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What are some of your favorite quiet YA books?

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