Title: The Art of Being Normal
Author: Lisa Williamson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) a Macmillan imprint
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Genre(s): Young Adult Fiction
Page Count: 352 pages
Reviewed by: Natalie
Heat Level: 0 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
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.
So one of my reading goals in 2016 was to read more Young Adult books. Well, The Art of Being Normal is my first step in that direction. I was scouring NetGalley for LGBT reads with trans characters, and this gem popped up.
The premise? David Piper is your typical teenager. Average in the sense that he’s one of two children, he lives with his mom and dad; he has a younger sister Livvy who he at times finds obnoxious. David is envious of Livvy because she gets to experience all the things that he can’t. She gets to wear dresses, do her hair and makeup, have her period. David desperately wants to live as a girl. Everything about him is wrong. The keen likeness to his father, his Adam’s apple, his huge feet, his lack of breasts, his penis. David abhors the body he’s been assigned at birth. David’s closest friends Essie and Felix know his secret, and they support him as best they can.
Since the Three Muskateers keep to themselves, they’re pretty much labeled as weirdos by the rest of the student body. Makes you hate high school all over again reading some of the ways the more “popular” kids treat them.
Enter Leo. Leo is a new transfer student at Eden Park. He comes with a reputation. Everyone is frightened of Leo because of the rumors that have spread as to why he was kicked out his previous school. LOL, kids make up the most inane shit, but I digress. Anywho, Leo also has a sister. Well, two actually. A twin sister and a younger sister. His father isn’t in the picture, but that’s a whole other issue which is addressed in the story. His relationship with his mother is strained. Leo wasn’t born a boy. No one knows this except his family. The Art of Being Normal takes the reader on a journey where two teenagers find solace in each other. They both want to live their lives without the stigma attached. They want what’s inside to match what’s outside despite the ridicule and assumptions from family and classmates.
This book is very British but I loved it! Ms. Williamson did a fantastic job engaging the reader with useful pop culture references. You also get a sense of British culture with vivid descriptions. This was an incredibly quick read that didn’t seem at all like it was over 300 pages.
I’d recommend The Art of Being Normal if you’re looking for something engaging but quick, deep but not too profound, and heartwarming. A lovely little four-star read.
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