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 year eleven 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…
First published: 2015
Source: eGalley approved by the publisher in exchange for honest review
When I came across The Art of Being Normal on NetGalley a while ago (for the promotion of the new edition, I think) the transgender theme immediately caught my eye. I’ve never read a book that focused on transgender people, and since I don’t know all that much about it (except what Tumblr tells me) I figured it’d be interesting to read a novel about it. Plus, I want to read more LGBT+ YA books, and this was a good one for that project too. And I really liked it!
The story is told in chapters that alternate between David and Leo’s perspectives. They are two completely different characters from completely different backgrounds, which made the different perspectives even more interesting. I found myself liking Leo’s chapters best, probably because he was more of a mystery to me and I wanted to find out more about him and what made him so guarded and dark.
David and Leo both frustrated me at times; David could be a bit naive and quite pushy in his friendship with Leo, and Leo wallowed in his own pain and could be very mean to David and others. There were instances of extreme eyerolling for both characters’ behaviour, which I think was due in a large part to their being teenagers. I felt for them both, though, and it really made me quite angry to read about how they were treated by the people in their school for who they were. Teenagers can be such dicks (pardon my French), but then again, so can people in general.
While David and Leo were well developed characters, I would’ve liked to see a bit more of the secondary characters such as David’s friends Essie and Felix. They seemed like fun characters, but they don’t get much face time in the book. Nevertheless, they did add something to the story.
The family dynamics in this book are really well done as well. I loved the scene when David tells his parents about him being transgender. It’s really emotional, and so well written. Leo’s family is a lot more messed up than David’s. He has a terrible relationship with his mother and doesn’t know his father, and this is just the start of it. But things really change within Leo’s family, and it was interesting to read about these developments. It added another layer to the story that was already quite heavy to begin with.
I almost broke my teeth on the ending it was so sweet, but kind of cute as well. It had a very strong “end of feel good film” kind of vibe in that it was pretty cheesy, but it did also make me smile. Plus, it’s not a happy ending per se, because it is clear that these characters have a tough life ahead of them.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading The Art of Being Normal. Not only is it a good, well written novel, I also think it raises awareness about what being transgender really is. It gives an insight in the life of a transgender person, and I believe that’s important because there needs to be more understanding for this. Although it was a bit too teenager-y for me at times, I would definitely recommend reading it to anyone!