Euphoria is a polarizing show. Despite being extremely popular and widely-watched, even viewers take issue with the writing, the sexualization of high school characters, the unclear narrative, and more. Or maybe you just generally dislike it. Whatever the case, if you’re not on the Euphoria wave, try these books instead!
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang: If you like reading about characters navigating adolescence and discovering their sexuality, with some magical realism.
Bestiary is the story told from the points of view of three generations of immigrant Taiwanese women, referred to only as Daughter, Mother, and Grandmother. The story follows their family history and how folklore from their home country has stayed with them in the states.
From the author’s website: “One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth–and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.”
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: If you like relationship drama, but would prefer your sex scenes minor-free.
Conversations With Friends follows Irish college students and ex-girlfriends turned best friends Frances and Bobbi as they figure out adulthood and construct their own world-views and convictions. Things get interesting when they befriend an older married couple, Melissa and Nick, who live a much more glamorous lifestyle than the pair of friends themselves.
Be sure to catch the upcoming television adaptation as well! Check out the teaser here.
Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel: If you’re interested in learning about mental health and substance abuse in the form of a memoir.
In her 1994 memoir, Elizabeth Wurtzel details her lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety and addiction. She writes with an extreme rawness and candidness that was off-putting to some reviewers upon its publication, but the result is an honest account of these issues that continue to affect adolescents and adults today.
Although Euphoria has received praise for its depiction of teen substance abuse, read this instead for something that’s not glamorized at all by HBO’s production budget.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: If you’re interested in stories that focus on trans relationships.
Torrey Peters’ novel Detransition, Baby focuses on a primary cast of three women — one cis, one trans, and one in the process of de-transitioning, and the complexities of their identities and relationships to one another. When one of them proposes the three of them act as a family to raise a child together, they must reckon with these questions and more.
The New Yorker says that “it addresses its characters’ suffering with a charming mixture of generosity and irony, and it favors matter-of-factness over precious subtlety.”
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: If you want to read about race, class, and desire in beautiful prose.
Maybe you particularly dislike the way that Sam Levinson writes Euphoria. He’s received a lot of criticism on social media for what some viewers perceive as an inability to write successful or authentic dialogue.
If this is something that puts you off from the show, try National Book Award winning author Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone. Woodson has a talent for writing every sentence like poetry while at the same time not glamorizing the serious themes she depicts. Red at the Bone follows two families and their generational trauma, and focuses on the character Harmony who begins to discover herself and her sexuality while attending college.
NPR said of Red at the Bone that “In less than 200 sparsely filled pages, this book manages to encompass issues of class, education, ambition, racial prejudice, sexual desire and orientation, identity, mother-daughter relationships, parenthood and loss — yet never feels like a checklist of Important Issues.”
On the other hand, if you are a fan of the show, click here for 10 books to read if you like Euphoria!