Book Review: Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

When the small goat farm that Hazel Brownlee-Wellington calls home is rezoned right before eighth grade, she is forced to leave her best (and only) friend, Becca, and make a fresh start at a new school. At first, she intends to keep her head down and just make it through the year before she can be reunited with Becca in high school, but that becomes more complicated when Becca starts drifting away. Hazel, in turn and somewhat against her will, begins making new friends at her school. On top of that, one of Hazel’s mothers, Mimi, announces that she is pregnant again after having had two miscarriages in the past. After having gone through the deaths of Mimi’s first two babies, Hazel is terrified of losing another sibling and deals with the trauma of her past experiences.

The casual queerness of this book is incredible. Hazel has two mothers and befriends a trans girl at  her new school, and neither is treated as being anything other than perfectly normal. Hazel is just beginning to understand herself and figure out her identity. Though she does not settle on any labels, throughout the book, she doubts that she will ever want to date or kiss anyone, let alone have sex with them. There’s a conversation at the end of the book between Hazel and Mimi that absolutely made me cry for how validating it felt as an ace woman, myself. It is incredibly difficult to find middle grade books with aro or ace characters, and this gem of a book is one that I highly recommend adding to any collection.

Additionally, another of Hazel’s new friends, Yosh, is disabled and uses a wheelchair. In my opinion, this is one of the best representations of a wheelchair user I have seen in youth literature. He responds gruffly when anyone tries to help him with simple tasks such as when Hazel tries to turn in his assignment during class without asking first if he wanted her to bring it to the teacher for him. This is often something that people with mobility disabilities often encounter, and showing that able-bodied people in particular should ask before assuming a disabled person needs help is something that I haven’t often encountered in media. A great read on all fronts!

Hazel’s Theory of Evolution is the winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult category, and Lisa Jenn Bigelow, the author, is a fellow alum of the University of Illinois’s Library and Information Science program!

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