Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

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Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

My rating: 4.75/5

Goodreads rating: 4.27/5

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Publisher:  David Fickling Books

Summary (Goodreads):

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.


When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


Review:

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This book was spectacular! Within a few pages I was engrossed by the stories of these two teenage boys. I have never read a book about a transgender person or transgender issues, so this book was fantastic in just informing myself. And who said books couldn’t educate you! This book was intriguing, engaging and a must read for most.

Plot:

David isn’t like other boys. When David is older he wants to be a girl. Leo wants to keep his secret for being expelled just that- a secret. He wants to escape from his crap house, crap Mam and crap life altogether. He wants to live his own life somewhere far away. When a unlikely coicindence brings these two teenagers together, they will both have to ultimately choose if they want to live their lives through lies and secrets or be truthful to themselves-and everyone around them.

This story is so beautiful and raw. There is no sugar coating of what secondary school is like, or sweetening the experience of bullying or what both David and Leo are going through which made me cringe in some places because I didn’t want to read through it. This book definitely benefited by the dual POVs for obvious reasons when you reach around the 200 page mark but also their contrasting personalities were fun to read back to back. The thing I enjoyed about this book as well was even though the main focus of this book was being transgender, there were many other themes weaved in as well. These themes include class, bullying and conflict within the family unit. And all of these were highlighted in a realistic light. The only small vice I have towards this book was I think when the book got to a certain point, the balance of focus between David and Leo shifted towards Leo more and I felt that David got left behind slightly in terms of a story arc. We do get some brilliant moments from David, I just wished we had more.

Writing:

Williamson did an excellent job with describing the realism of secondary school. It was refreshing of course and very appreciated. Though the whole transgender theme can be carried with a lot of weight, somehow Williamson made the story light and bouncy and humorous if that makes any sense. This made reading TAoBN really quick (basically in three sittings), though being really informative without being too heavy. But even though I’m saying this, some scenes were really cringey to watch because I just felt so much for the characters. That’s another thing as well- I connected with the characters so much within only a few of the characters. You can’t help but root for them and want nothing but good things to happen to them. I guess that’s testament to Williamson’s writing.

“Normal is such a stupid word,” I say, anger suddenly rising in my belly. “What does it even mean?”

“It means fitting in,” David replies simply.

“And that’s what you really want? To fit in?”

“Not all the time perhaps. But a lot of the time, yes, I think it would be a lot easier to just blend into the crowd.”

Characters:

Both of our two male protagonists are complicated, likeable and utterly interesting to read about. The side characters as well were well rounded and realistic. I especially liked Amber, Leo’s sister and Essie and Felix, David’s best friends. Leo’s mum could of got more page times I think but that’s not a big vice.

David is the more lighter side of the duo. Though he is getting bullied, he has this positive aura about him, probably the more youthful aspect of his character. He is still very complicated and especially with the trangender issue hanging over him. There are some scenes where you wish you can just hug him because his so vulnerable. A great character.

Leo is more of the shade of the duo. He can be very cynical and sarcastic at times which mostly comes from his background. You can tell his been through a lot which is why he isolates himself so much which is why the friendship between David and himself is so special. The scenes where they are together are some of the best scene because their personalities clash so much.

What I liked: 

  • The friendship between David and Leo.
  • The writing is magnificent 
  • The realism is so on point!

What I disliked/ Could be improved:

  • More David couldn’t of hurt
  • I would of liked to know more about Leo’s mum.

Verdict: The Art of Being Normal is an excellent read for anybody who is a bit oblivious to the transgender that has been awoken. This book is also brilliant for anybody who is in need of a realistic story which is full of both dark and light moments which mould beautifully together.

-Astra

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