Published by: Echo Publishing
ISBN 13: 9781760685850
Published: February 2020
Format reviewed: PDF from publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Euphoria Kids tells the story of three kids. The first we meet is Iris, who has two mums, can see and speak with faeries and other magical folk, and uses ‘they’ pronouns. The second is Babs, who they meet after attending the same school for a while but having never run into each other before – partly because Babs has a tendency to turn invisible sometimes thanks to an earlier run-in with a witch. Babs is also made of fire, and identifies as female. When the two finally meet it’s like they’ve come home; finally meeting someone who gets them in a way no one else has before.
Then there’s a new boy in school, a boy who hasn’t really worked out what name he wants to go by, but who is comforted by the fact he has Babs and Iris who understand it’s no big deal to not have a name as of yet, and that it’ll come when it’s ready. Instantly, the three are friends.
The novel goes through school, times in the forest, and touches on chronic illnesses (Babs’ mum), and what it means to be an outsider to some but entirely normal to others. The novel has a wistful and serene tone, and it’s sure to touch the hearts of many; anyone who is open to it.
One thing that did slightly confuse me is that in the beginning it sets up that Iris had friends during the first couple years of high school but then drifted from them, which makes me think this is happening when Iris is in Year 11 or Year 12, however, the book itself felt more middle-grade… which, in itself isn’t a bad thing. Certainly when I was in school there were kids who seemed to be ready for a mortgage and had enough dramas to fit into The Young and the Restless and then there were other kids who were doing exactly what many adults (I’m sure) wish they could still be doing now. Chilling out, with only a vague worry about the next exam.
What’s important is that this story is nice. When I was in school (and then also later judging for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards), all the books written for the upper years of schooling were so depressing; they were about drugs, abortions, heartache, losing your parents (or having abusive parents), various types of assault, losing your innocence, blah blah blah. And hell, those books are important, sure… but when it’s literally all that’s out there on the shelves it certainly does paint a certain picture that these years are a time when you’re meant to be depressed. And surely that’s not right.
Euphoria Kids gives us the representation from an OwnVoices author that we needed then, need now, and need more of in general. Iris, Babs and Boy gives us the delight and warmth of new friendships and acceptance, the knowing who you are and that’s okay, or still searching and that’s okay, too. And they also have lovely supportive parents, who have a real connection to their kids and support and guide them. Even the woman in the cafe – we see her get it wrong, listen, correct, and try to do better. This is exactly what we need.
Alison Evans included a letter to the reader when we received our review copies. The letter reads:
I write these stories because I can’t get the fifteen-year-old me out of my head, the one who was so scared because they thought that they were alone. I don’t want anyone else to feel that.
A lot of stories about trans characters are focused on conflict and trauma. Stories written about us focus on our transitions, gender dysphoria, how we have learnt to hate our bodies, how we want to change our bodies.
Trans people are so often defined by what we’re not; we are defined by a lack. That is often where the conflict lies in the stories written about us. I realised that it is very easy for me to write these stories, to continue that narrative, because I’ve been taught to. That narrative is so dominant in the media, in the books we read, the films we watch. This is not always a bad thing, and these stories are necessary, but when these are written from a cis perspective, they can be incredibly damaging. So much of the trans presence in fiction is dictated by cis people.
I realised I wanted to write queer stories without queer trauma, and I don’t really know how to do that exactly. There is a lot of unlearning to do. And a lot of learning, learning to give the same weight to joy that I do to sadness.
I want people to know about gender euphoria. I want them to learn about it before gender dysphoria. I want the young trans kids that will read this book to be proud of who they are, and imagine wonderful, magic lives for themselves.