Title: Nothing Ever Happens Here
Author: Sarah Hagger-Holt
Publication Date: 9th January 2020
About the book:
“This is Littlehaven. Nothing ever happens here. Until the spotlight hits my family.”
Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Izzy is terrified her family will be torn apart. Will she lose her dad? Will her parents break up? And what will people at school say? Izzy’s always been shy, but now all eyes are on her. Can she face her fears, find her voice and stand up for what’s right?
What I Thought:
I want to preface this review by saying I’m reading and reviewing this book from a place of pure ignorance, by this I mean I’m not someone who has personally transitioned, nor do I know anyone who has transitioned. I would never deadname someone and I try and use everyone’s preferred pronouns but I am far from an expert in such things and as such I may get some things wrong in this review, please know this is not me being intentionally rude or hateful and if I do phrase something wrong please let me know.
Izzy is your average young girl growing up in a quiet town where nothing ever happens. She’s growing up with her older sister Megan and younger brother Jamie alongside her parents and excited to go back to school as a year eight, no longer one of the kids in a too big blazer getting lost trying to find their classroom. Then her parents sit her down alongside her siblings and tell them that their father is transgender and has decided to take the next step in her transition.
Nothing Ever Happens Here follows Izzy and her family through the first term at school, as all five family members deal with the changes in their family and how this affects them on a wider basis when news of her dad’s decision to transition is shared at school. The story is full of ups and downs and I must admit that I found it to be a much more emotional read than I was expecting! One of my favourite parts was the moment where all three siblings came together to decide on a new name for their dad as they felt wrong continuing to call her dad, and decided on Dee instead.
From pretty early on I identified with Izzy, it was the moment that she was sitting in maths and spoke about liking the subject because the answer was either right or wrong, it didn’t depend on someone’s opinion. I remember sitting in class in secondary school and giving the same response almost word for word when someone asked me why I preferred Maths to English. While I can’t put myself directly in Izzy’s shoes I certainly remember that secondary school can be a difficult place to be different, there were 450 students in my year group and including myself a grand total of two of us were mixed race. Handy for finding yourself in the end of school year group photo but yeah rural Devon in the early 00’s was not a hot bed of multiculturalism… I was fortunate that I’ve always had a bit of a snarky streak and after one or two comments people decided it wasn’t worth the effort and it all stopped. I did have a friend in a different school who had to switch schools the bullying was so bad though. Back to the story I was so pleased that Izzy had a friend that she trusted enough to share things with and Grace was such a wonderful character being there for her. I think that’s what made their fall out all the more heart breaking to read and I was rooting for them to work it out.
I loved how supportive of Dee’s transition Izzy’s mum was, I can only imagine how much easier it made it for Dee to admit who she truly was and not have to keep portraying the person she had been for so many years. I think the comparison the way Sam’s dad dealt with his past and also Vicky’s transition was really interesting and it really made me remember that while we may have come reasonable distance in the past decade or so there is still an awfully long way to go.
For me one of the most important characters in the whole book was Izzy’s younger brother Jamie. Jamie is only five and the first time he sees his father as Danielle he really doesn’t care he just says daddy has boobies and runs straight for a hug. I think this just drives home the idea that we aren’t born with prejudices they are formed by the environment we grow up in. The longer we can keep the innocence of Jamie the better, differences whether it be race, sexuality or gender should be embraced, how boring would the world be if we were all exactly the same. I really struggle to understand why people get so worked up about things that will literally have no impact on their lives on a day to day basis.
This one caught me in the feels far more than I expected. What a wonderfully written heartfelt book this is. It’s absolutely perfect for introducing transgender identity to younger children but so worth a read by anyone of any age. Izzy’s family’s journey won’t be the same as everyone else’s but I’m sure everyone will find something they can identify with within this story. There are also some great resources to provide further information or support at the end of the book.
About The Author
Sarah Hagger-Holt has worked as a copywriter, content-gatherer and campaigner in the charity sector, travelling within the UK and overseas to gather stories. She now works for the LGBT rights charity Stonewall.
Sarah is fascinated by people’s stories and uncovering voices which are seldom heard. She has co-authored two non-fiction books based on dozens of first-hand interviews — the first about the experiences of lesbian, gay and bi Christians, and the second a handbook for LGBT parents.
These stories have inspired her fiction writing, and she would love to see more children’s books that reflect the realities of different types of families.
She lives with her partner and two children in Hertfordshire.
Connect With Sarah
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As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?