Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 7. 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.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: found family, pining for a straight person
TAGS: contemporary, young adult, queer joy, coming of age, family dynamics, drag scene, coming out
WARNINGS: absentee parent, alcohol, cheating (mentioned), bigotry, queer pain (there is a painful coming out side story)
This book was one of my surprise reads of the year. I got the audiobook after Jesse on Bowties & Books mentioned how much they enjoyed this read and I am so glad I picked it up.
First of all, the narration is wonderful, Soneela Nankani brought Nima to life in ways that had me deeply invested in her story right from the start. It helped that Nima as a character was so relatable and… sweet. I don’t have another word for it. She’s bookish and a little weird and nerdy, insecure and vulnerable all at the same time. But with this big hunger for change and a little sense of adventure, all while still trying to cope with some huge life changes. Also, I adored her dad, who was the most supportive Dad character I’ve read in a while, and her best friend. They were to die for, funny and sweet together, and the story just kept adding more and more side characters I loved.
Speaking about things I loved. The way this book talks about queerness warmed my heart from the inside out. It’s a genuine and kind exploration of queerness in many forms, never cruel or painful, just always finding the right balance between exploration and questioning without being erasing. It was lovely.
One thing that was a big part of the book that made it endearing, but also hard for me to get through at the same time, was the intense sense of second-hand embarrassment I felt a lot, especially in the beginning. Some scenes were just… A baby queer finding her steps and stumbling while also trying to impress the girl she is crushing on and I could have *died* during those scenes. They were wonderful and gentle and even a little funny sometimes, it’s just my issue of blushing half to death when other people feel embarrassed that made it a bumpy listening experience a time or two. But at the same time, her wit and snark and dialogues were so incredibly *funny*, it was a joy to keep reading regardless. As was everything related to drag and doing drag shows and finding yourself while doing it. So wonderful.
Overall this story gave me so much I’ve been longing for. The LGBTQ+ spectrum of characters, and not all white either. We got lovely discussions about femininity and masculinity, performance and presentation and identity, drag and breaking of gender roles and people’s expectations and assumptions that come with both. Queer joy and pain, family feelings and found family bonds, morally ambiguous characters, DRAMA. Seriously, this book has it all and the only thing I really want from it is A SEQUEL. Even though the book ended on the perfect note for me. I still want one.
4.5 stars rounded to 5
Tanya Boteju is an English teacher and writer living on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). She believes feminism, diversity, committed educators, sassy students, and hot mugs of tea will save the day. She is also grateful for her patient wife who builds her many bookshelves! Tanya may have been a drag king in her well-spent youth and knows that the queer community is full of magic and wonder.