Are There Lesbians? No
Ida can time travel. Or at least that’s what she thinks is happening. In fact, she is constantly shifting through universes and her other selves are not happy about it.
I have a confession to make. I don’t really like Australian lit. This is most likely due to being force-fed all sorts of mediocre classic Australian texts at school and as such, I have built up a strong resentment towards the genre as a whole. What this means however, is that when I do read something from an Australian author that I like, I am delightfully surprised. IDA is one such text. I had trepeditions going into it a) because I am wary of Auslit, but also b) I’ve never particularly liked the use of Narnia-style alternate universes in novels. Its turns out that I was somewhat misled by the blurb however, and need not have been worried about the latter (there are no coming of age style adventures in another land here). The former concern turned out not to be a worry either because damned if this isn’t a fantastic book. Alison Evans has written the best AusYA novel I have read since reading Finding Cassie Crazy in high school. They have earned the Peoples Choice Award for the Vic Premier’s Literary Award a thousand times over, and I would love to see their work gain more recognition. This review has actually come at a bit of a crazy moment as Alison has become the focus of Piers Morgan and some of his followers. This sort of ignorance and desire to focus on the lives of others is both sickening and saddening. I don’t want this to be the focus of my review but it’s definitely going to be overshadowed by it. I loved this book and Alison has done so well to get where they are. If I can convince you to check out IDA please do so, and help support this amazing queer author!
IDA is chock-full of queer characters. There’s only like one straight person in this book and I am living. The main character is Bi and in love with a non-binary person (and I love their love and want them to be happy) and two other side characters are both genderqueer and, frankly, their outfits sound #goals. Not only is my queer saturation level met, but the characters are extremely well written. They are all emphatically queer without going through the trope-filled coming-out storyline or struggle against prejudice. Sure, Ida especially doesn’t know what she wants in life, but the novel manages to be about that without pushing her queerness to the side. I think there is a fine balance between a novel simply being about the fact that the main character is queer and a character being “just like everyone else but I like people of the same gender etc,” and Alison has managed not only to find it, but use it with aplomb.
I really cannot stress enough how much I love this book. IDA has some wonderfully tense moments and it would be easy to categorise it as a horror or thriller. I was constantly rooting for all the characters, but particularly for Ida to get back to her partner Daisy. The worlds in which they didn’t know each other broke my heart! There is also a fantastic visual element to the novel which makes it easy to feel as if you are a part of things. To return to referring to IDA as a horror novel for a moment, Alison manages to find everyday things – like a tea stain – and make them unreal and, quite frankly, a little terrifying. In my fiction I love this sort of twisting of the everyday into something strange. It is how it is so easily inserted into the “real” world which creates a feeling of unease and wonder. It’s really fantastic to see this sort of thing being so well executed.
I don’t want to give too much away because everyone should read this book. It is not only an excellent piece of Australian lit, but an excellent work in general and one that can easily stand on the world stage. If this is the future of Australian YA, then I am so fucking excited, and can’t wait to see what Alison does next.