Cristina Rodriguez works in publishing and is a former bookseller. She also co-writes Trove, a sporadic newsletter of backlist book treasures. You can follow along @trove.books!
When HBO television series Euphoria premiered in 2019, it quickly dominated the cultural conversation. From long Twitter threads in favor or against select characters to outfit recreations on TikTok, it became an overnight sensation. There’s something captivating about a chaotic teen drama. Maybe it’s the hyper-stylized plot or the self-destruction that feels desperate yet familiar?
I think we can all agree that sometimes we secretly (not so secretly) love to be entertained by a group of unhinged adolescents on the cusp of adulthood. Following the season two finale of Euphoria, here are a few audiobooks that imagine the wild spaces of teen and young adult pandemonium to tide you over.
Vagablonde by Anna Dorn
Vagablonde’s Prue is the kind of fictional character I imagine graduating from Euphoria high school. Highly medicated, internet-fueled, and a partying enthusiast, she’s perpetually on the edge of a breakdown. And she only wants two things: to reach social media fame and to lessen her psychotropic medication dosage (an aspiration that Euphoria’s entrepreneurial camgirl Kat Hernandez would be supportive of). A contemporary exploration of the consequences of viral fame and mental illness, Anna Dorn narrates an addictive tale of self-exploration through narrative chaos deserving of its own HBO series.
Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger
If you love unapologetic, depraved works of contemporary literature, Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger is the book for you. Similar to Euphoria’s Rue, sixteen-year-old Maya is searching for consistency and stability as her life spirals downward into anarchy. When she meets Elijah, a mysterious older musician, her newfound sexual awakening is both dissociative and deviant, showing parallels to Rue’s love interest, Jules. What begins as an innocent coming-of-age story quickly spirals into violence, perversion, and an exploration of porn, race, and sexual agency. If you think Euphoria goes too far, this book makes the TV drama seem timid.
Luster by Raven Leilani
Luster by Raven Lailani is an examination into a young woman’s self-consciousness as she tries to make sense of the world and find hope for herself and future. With inappropriate sexual choices akin to Euphoria’s Cassie and the anger and ego of her best friend Maddy, Luster’s Edie is also trying to navigate the raw ugliness of contemporary relationships. While Edie didn’t sleep with her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, a relationship with a married man is equally ill-advised.
Cherry by Nico Walker
While the characters in Nico Walker’s Cherry are years apart from the Euphoria ensemble, they dance with identical demons. A fictionalized account of Walker’s life, this is a story centered around love and drug addiction—complete with a character arc reminiscent to Fezco and Ashtray, Euphoria’s lovable drug dealers and Rue’s main drug supplier. There are no paragons of virtue in Cherry or Euphoria, but you feel empathy for these characters. Cherry is a beautiful and tragic reminder that no one should be defined by their worst actions, and everyone is deserving of redemption.
Bunny by Mona Awad
If you’ve reached the final episodes of season 2, you’ve witnessed the formerly elusive Lexi Howard be a bystander to the lies, betrayals, and missteps of the Euphoria inner circle. With one high school production of her life and friendships, Lexi’s play is set to blow up the season finale. In a similar fashion, Mona Awad’s novel Bunny is a story of a side character who takes the lead in her highly selective MFA program. Awad’s depiction of belonging, loneliness, and the dangers of female cliques is deeply comedic and a nuanced approach to storytelling. As Maddy Perez would (probably) say: “Mona Awad is a G!”
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
Pizza Girl follows the story of an unnamed pregnant teenage pizza delivery girl living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Depressed, stagnant, and an alcoholic, our heroine is on track to fall apart before she even gets to her third trimester. Her life becomes upended when she meets Jenny, a stay-at-home mom, during a routine delivery. Comically flawed and deeply dysfunctional like many of the Euphoria leads, Pizza Girl asks a question that looms over Rue’s loved ones: “How far can someone spiral and still be deserving of love and understanding?”