Title: How to Be a Normal Person
Author: TJ Klune
Release Date: October 16, 2015
Page Count: 290
Reviewed by: Valerie
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.
Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.
Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.
But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
How to Be a Normal Person is a wild and crazy ride of plentiful laugh-out-loud moments typical of TJ Klune’s signature humor, interspersed within a story of self-discovery regarding sexuality – specifically asexuality. It was refreshing to read a book that explores an under-represented segment of the population in literature. It may confuse some as to how a story about two asexual men qualifies as “gay romance”, so it’s important to differentiate between a sexual relationship and a romantic one which can be completely independent.
In TJ Klune’s story, Gustavo Tiberius(!) is living a regimented, predictable life operating his video rental store (yes, the story does take place in present day). When the town’s newest hipster resident, Casey, falls for Gus and begins an unrelenting pursuit of our awkward hero, Gus is clueless in how to behave. He thinks he might be interested in Casey, although he’d never say so.
Gus hated feeling anxious. He also hated warm ketchup, loud people, sunburns, parallel parking, jams and jellies, Instagram, Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA commercials, rubber glue, Michael Bay’s DVD commentaries, Michael Bay’s films, Michael Bay, and that weird feeling that tattooed, bearded hipsters caused in the pit of his stomach that felt like he had tripped down a flight of stairs into a frozen lake that got lit on fire.
In one of the funniest scenes I’ve had the pleasure to read lately, Gus decides he needs the internet to research “confounding asexual hipsters and how to be a normal person” so he calls the cable company and hilarity ensues. Once on the internet, Gus finds a series of questionable advice articles entitled, “How to be a Normal Person” that he uses as his guide, for better or worse.
There was no entry titled How to Go Out as Friends with an Asexual Hipster so that It Leads to Something More. This was troubling to Gus. He would have thought that more people would have run in to this situation.
In typical Klune fashion, the book is rich in secondary characters, in this case the all-up-in-your-business townsfolk, led by the fantastically irreverent We Three Queens. The Queens are a trio of wacky Vespa-riding, geriatric women who are among the few customers at his video store, and who take on the self-appointed roles of dating gurus.
“I could invite him to the Strawberry Festival next week,” he said begrudgingly. “You mean that festival you say is the worst thing in the world?” Bertha asked. “That festival where the town gathers to interact and the only day every year you actively try to leave Abby?” Bernice asked. “The festival where you said, and I quote, ‘I would rather burn on the surface of the sun than ever be caught dead at because oh my god, a strawberry festival? Seriously? This is not the nineteen fifties and we don’t live in Mayberry. Shoot me in the face.’ End quote. That strawberry festival?”
How to Be a Normal Person is a laugh out loud book and the audiobook, narrated by Derrick McClain, is a comic marvel. If you’re seeking heat, this is not the book for you. Rather, if you want to fall into a lovely and hilarious story of an awkward man trying to find his path to love – when he doesn’t even know that’s what he wants – look no further. Love can come to those who don’t even recognize it.