I bought myself a copy of this book after it was made the March/April choice in the Girl Gang Book Club. I’d never heard of it prior to being recommended in this book club, so it was a brand new one for me (weirdly, the day after I ordered it I got an email from Waterstones telling me it had won a prestigious young adult prize. It was obviously meant to be.) I’ve learnt since that this book is kind of a big deal in the book world, so you’ve probably heard of it already! I think I devoured this one in less than a few days because it was just THAT good. And of course, I’m going to tell you exactly why…
The Art of Being Normal is the story of two young men. The first, David, only wants one thing in life: to stop hiding behind an identity with which he doesn’t relate. He wants to be a woman. There are only two people who are aware of this desire, his best friends. The book follows his struggle to finally admit to his parents that he identities with being female, being attracted to other men and generally just not fitting into the body he was born into. We’re also introduced to Leo, a new student at the school that David goes to who has had trouble in his past. He wants to stick his head done, finish his time at high school and go unnoticed. When he gets in a fight which leads to him defending David, it’s clear that he isn’t going to be allowed to be left out of the spotlight. I’m not going to spoil the plot (because I never do in my reviews) but this one is definitely a book that you should read if you’re into YA/LGBT fiction and to be honest, even if you’re not.
I will start by saying that this isn’t a book which is clichéd in its approach of transgender teenagers. I didn’t at any point find any of the reading uncomfortable, or disrespectful, or harbouring on inconsiderate. It was exactly the opposite of that, if I’m honest with you, and that was definitely something which made me really love the story. I absolutely loved David and Leo’s characters and the friendship that they build over the course of the book, but I must be honest: I love Leo much, much more! His character appealed to me in all the right ways and I found him exciting and mysterious, all the things I love in a book character! We’re fed little trinkets of information about his past and there’s a little bit of a twist in the tale as far as he is concerned.
I’ve never read a book exclusively about transgender teens, and this one is special in the sense that it’s much anticipated and gaining great prestige already. I think that Lisa Williamson was definitely the right person to be putting this story out, she handled it with care and thought and I’m sure that those who are going through similar things to the characters in this story will be able to relate to the characters. I’d say that this is an incredibly important contribution to Young Adult literature and the subject matter only makes it all the more special.