Book Review: The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Expected Publication is May 31, 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux|Expected Number Of Pages: 352
Where I Got It: I got a digital-ARC from netgalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review
Genre: YA Contemporary
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 his class 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, and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.
As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.
I really liked The Art Of Being Normal! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s a book I’d recommend to anyone!
I haven’t read many books featuring a trasngender character, but I liked seeing David struggle with telling his family that he’s transgender. You see how he’s bullied because of this time, when he was little, and said he wanted to be a girl. You see how people assume he’s gay (or suspect he his) because he’s interested in boys, when, in reality, it’s because David is really Kate.
David’s story is a really interesting parallel to Leo’s story. As with David, you see bullying and how people treat him because Leo is also transgender, and what happened to Leo was heartbreaking. It makes me so sad that people treated Leo the way they did, and that Leo had to transfer schools for his own safety. You have David, who wants to transition, and Leo, who is in the process of transitioning, and I like how their stories come together. I did like the dual narration, since you see how both teens are struggling, and what their lives are like.
Even though it worked fairly well, it was also hard to form strong attachments to both Leo and David. I do love the connection they have with each other, though, and I’m glad they have each other for support. Something about it the dual narration didn’t quite work for me, and I think it’s because we don’t focus completely on one character. Like, David kind of gets pushed off to the side because of Leo’s search for his father, and it seems sort of random and I’m not sure it completely fits with the rest of the story.
It also starts a little slow, and you’re not really sure where it’s headed at first, but as you get into the story, you get a better idea of where things are headed. Still, there were times where it seemed like it might be a little darker than you’d expect, and it didn’t really get there. Yes, you see some of the prejudice that transgender people face, but it didn’t have a big emotional impact, and I guess I just wanted something more. It did seem unevenly paced, and a little all over the place, and looking back, I think I wanted something a little more evenly paced.
More than anything, The Art Of Being Normal is about class and poverty and making friends and communicating with family. It’s about growing up and dealing with family. David doesn’t feel like he’s normal, and you see how hard it is for David to communicate that. He was a character I think we can all relate, because we all feel like we’re not normal, and we’re all dealing with our thing.
Williamson captures what it’s like to be a teenager really well, and it was really easy to relate to some of the things the characters were dealing with.
I did want to see more of David’s friends, who are there, but not in an important way. I wish we see them more than the random appearances they make. Going in, I knew Leo was transgender, but it’s a while before it comes up in the book that Leo’s transgender, and it was frustrating to see the hints that Leo had a secret, but it not being revealed. I get that Leo’s not open because of what happened to him at his old school, but the hints got to me, and I just wanted to know what happened.
3 stars. I liked it, and I think it’s a book everyone should read, but for me, I wanted a little more than what we got in the book.