A quirky tale with an important message. Some fun, but don’t forget your tissues!
Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT
No. of pages: 352
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.
It has been quite a while since I’ve read a novel in the GLBT genre – so I thought it was about time to mix it up with ‘The Art of Being Normal.’ What it brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.
Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.
Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lis Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.
Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.
Effie and Alex – David’s best friends. Love the support and unadulterated no-holes barred relationship they shared. So rare. At times their silliness destroyed the authenticity for me. But loved their sense of humour – had me laughing quite a lot. My favourite scene is when David points Effie and Alex out to Leo, and they pull faces – priceless!
This story brings to light much of the pain and turmoil transgendered teens face in coming to terms with their condition/identity, some of it had tears falling from my eyes. (the feels! The feels!) The relationships in ‘The Art of Being Normal’ are beautiful.
I did want to read something other than issues regarding their gender identity. This book was all about that, and didn’t have much otherwise. I’m starting to find books are using GLBTQIA issues as a plot point or the big reveal annoying: when these are issues that are dealt with for a lifetime… along with everything else. So, more everything else please.
It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.
Great pacing, I completed this novel in two sittings and never found places where my attention was wandering. Great subject matter, but I found it very predictable, though, I would highly recommend this to all my friends.
Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.
Overall feeling – Simple, impressive even if it was predictable
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