Re-Release Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Art of being normalThe Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Genre: YA LGBT Realistic
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

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Wendy’s Review

I read a lot of LGBTQIA stories, both in adult and in young adult.  In particular, with YA, I tend to gravitate to stories of struggle and heartache and unfortunately being LGBTQIA as a young person means to walk a very hard path.  As an adult it’s easier to surround yourself with people who accept you, and to keep your personal life private in situations where you believe they may not.  As a kid, you’re still trying to figure out your life.  Everyone is looking at everyone, dissecting each other, judging each other.  Reading YA LGBTQIA always makes me so angry.  It’s a good anger.  A righteous anger.  Nobody deserves cruelty.  There is no such thing as normal.

Which brings me to The Art of Being Normal.  It’s the story about two trans teenagers, Leo and David.  One has begun the transition, the other hasn’t spoken up to his parents yet.  One has a homelife in strife and lacks social connections, the other has a solid family and good friends.  Both have been bullied.  Both struggle.  As the reader we got to walk with them as the faced their peers, the world, even the ones who were supposed to love them, and it was hard.  Even during the more upbeat scenes in The Art of Being Normal there was an undercurrent of anxiety for both Leo and David.  When they turned corners we were nervous, when they met up outside of school we were nervous.  That’s just how we felt when reading a book.  I can’t imagine living every day like that.

The story itself wasn’t without flaws.  I never felt like I truly sank into the story the way other authors immerse their readers.  I felt more like I was floating over top of the story, getting what was happening without the punch of true emotion.  There were moments where I wanted to cry, I felt what could have been a lump in my throat, but it never settled and manifested.  I would have preferred that perhaps there hadn’t been a romance in the story at all.  I think the heart of the book should have been the friendship between Leo and David, and if there were to be another sub-story going on it could have been with Essie, Felix, Livvy and Amber.  If the story had only been about Leo, the addition of Alicia would have been perfect but with split POV’s it felt like too much.

I did really like the end, though.  Sometimes stories like this can go too far, forcing the story to an unbelievable happy place.  Sometimes stories like this can go too far, forcing the story into a dark hopeless place.  The Art of Being Normal did a great job of finding a medium, filling us with hope for the both characters.

Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 Stars = C+

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