Claude is five years old, the youngest of five brothers. He is smart, sweet and, most importantly, he wants to be a girl. His parents, Rosie and Penn, want nothing more than for Claude to be whoever Claude may be. The entire family support him in his transition to Poppy, the daughter Rosie has always wanted. But a little girl with a penis is a big secret for a family to keep, and that kind of secret never stays hidden forever.
This book is everything. It isn’t preachy, or opinionated. It is a work of fiction with, frankly, one of the best narrative voices I’ve ever come across. The subject matter isn’t made light of, but nor is it heavily judgemental of the many different views of transgender people. There is a large focus on family, and anyone who has ever been part of a family will be able to relate, regardless of whether they’ve ever actually been through similar experiences. This Is How Is Always Is is entertaining and moving, nothing short of a work of genius.
I didn’t find myself disagreeing with every decision made by the parents, as I so often do in ‘family’ books. Their thoughts and feelings are easy to understand, making their decisions comprehendible which, as a particularly judgemental reader, was a massive relief for me.
The other characters, mainly Claude’s brothers, are absolutely delightful. Ben is every teenage boy I’ve ever met, while the twins are hilarious and I loved Rigel’s knitting habit. They gave the book so much character to go alongside the story, which focusses mainly on Claude/Poppy, Rosie and Penn. In fact, the only character I wasn’t particularly keen on was Rosie, and she had a lot on her plate so can be forgiven. The balance between the humour and the seriousness of the story was perfect.