Book Review: Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt

Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt

Title: Nothing Ever Happens Here

Author: Sarah Hagger-Holt

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes

Nothing Ever Happens Here is an enlightening and touching story about a pre-teen girl going through a big change in her family and the struggles of different family members to adjust to the situation. Izzy lives in the nothing town of Littlehaven, and the only thing saving her from complete boredom is her love of theater and her gregarious best friend, Grace.

One day Izzy’s parents sit her and her brother and sister down and tell them their dad is transgender and is planning on transitioning. Izzy’s parents have an unusual relationship (her mom knew her dad experienced a lot of gender dysphoria before she married him) and they’re staying together, but life as Izzy knows it seems to fall apart at the revelation. Why has her dad decided to make this major life change now, when he has a wife and kids? What will her classmates say?

A lot of Izzy and her sister Megan’s reactions (her brother is very young and seems unaffected) are selfish, but it’s not surprising given their age and maturity levels. Something like that would be a lot to take in. We also get more development of the parents than I’m used to in middle grade novels, especially the trans parent Danielle (who Izzy and Megan decide to call ‘Dee’ in the place of ‘Dad.’)

Dee is strong and even goes on a talk show and remains calm and collected while taking on a transphobic pastor. Their parents aren’t always the best at communicating but they love their kids a lot and you gradually see Izzy and Megan adopt the right pronouns and accept Dee’s gender identity. I was never absolutely crazy about Izzy’s character. I think it was because she seemed pretty typical of middle grade protagonists (especially female) and I didn’t think her characterization was strong enough to stand on it’s own, without the ‘transgender parent’ plotline. I just didn’t think she had that much depth and I even felt like Dee was the more interesting character.

There are some contrived moments (like Izzy and Grace’s falling-out) but the story itself is strong and goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. It also brings multiple issues facing transgender people to the table without feeling too didactic, through the bullying Izzy faces at school and Dee’s televised interview. Overall this book is a sensitive portrayal of GLBTQIA+ issues on a kid-friendly level, and I’m definitely interested in reading this author’s most recent book (Proud of Me.)

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