With whimsical, poetic storytelling, Alison Evans – author of Ida and Highway Bodies – weaves together worlds unlike and similar to our own in their latest young-adult novel. Euphoria Kids is about three queer teenagers – Iris, Babs and the boy – who explore and affirm their gender identity in a tale full of magic.
From the beginning, Evans’ lyrical descriptions illustrate an urban setting infused with magic. Iris is a gentle non-binary teenager who was birthed from a seed on the first day of spring, resulting in their ability to talk to plants. Although their two mothers, Moss and Clover, are the epitome of supportive parents, Iris longs for friendship. After Babs appears on their school bus one day, the two get to know one another; Iris discovers that Babs, a transgender girl made of fire, was cursed by a witch, causing her almost always to be invisible.
With their connections to magic and “the other realm”, which is home to dryads, faeries and other magical creatures, Iris and Babs find comfort in each other. They befriend a new schoolmate: a transgender boy who craves a name that he can call his own. All three teenagers are thrust into an adventure when Iris stumbles upon a magical book, and the friends must overcome dangerous obstacles in their quest for the answers they’ve been yearning for. As the novel alternates between the characters’ perspectives, mesmerising the reader with each new chapter, it builds towards a conclusion that melts the heart.
Evans’ care with their characters allows the teenagers to feel authentic, from their brief but open discussion about periods to their thoughts on how binary gender is viewed in their society – we learn that gender isn’t as important in the other realm. Evans also introduces Babs’ mother, Wendy, as someone who lives with fibromyalgia. Disability is hardly written about in young-adult books, making Evans’ thoughtful depiction of Wendy’s experience particularly refreshing.
Euphoria Kids is a love letter to queer and transgender teens: it’s exhilarating to read about these characters being so open about their identities, and living with such pride. More than just a coming-of-age novel, this is a story about queer teenagers realising the magic they have and allowing themselves to own it.
Echo, 272pp, $19.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 29, 2020 as "Alison Evans, Euphoria Kids".
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