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Home > Categories > Books > Young Adult > The Art of Being Normal review

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Score: 10.0/10  [2 reviews]
5 out of 5
ProdID: 6921 - The Art of Being Normal
Written by: Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal
Sample/s Supplied by:
Click to search for all products supplied by Scholastic (NZ)

Disclosure StatementFULL DISCLOSURE: A number of units of this product have, at some time, been provided to KIWIreviews by Scholastic (NZ) or their agents for the sole purposes of unbiased, independent reviews. No fee was requested, offered nor accepted by KIWIreviews or the reviewers themselves - these are genuine, unpaid consumer reviews.
February 2016

The Art of Being Normal product reviews

David is funny and quirky and has always felt different from other people. He also has a huge secret that only his two best friends know: ever since he can remember, he has felt like a girl trapped in the body of a boy.

Leo is missing his absent dad and is having a 'fresh start' at the posh Eden Park high school after being expelled from the toughest school in the area. He's tough and defensive, the complete opposite of David, but events conspire to put them together, and the two boys find they have more in common than they could ever have imagined.

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david fickling books   fiction   identity   lisa williamson   paperback   relationships   scholastic   school   secrets   transgender   young adult
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Click here to read the profile of kymmage

Review by: kymmage (Kym)
Dated: 9th of April, 2016

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This Review: 10/10
Score 10 out of 10
Score 10 out of 10
Lose Track of Time:
Score 10 out of 10
Personal Choice:
Score 10 out of 10

After reading Openly Straight via KIWIreviews, I wanted to read more books like that. I love Young Adult fiction because it deals with real stuff, that teens and even us adults have to deal with. You get exposed to ideas that you may not have considered which is pretty cool in my opinion. The themes are often big and offer a way of building an open mind for the reader. But you get some shielding from some of the harsher realities that those situations would bring about, if you were reading an adult fiction book.

With The Art of Being Normal, we get to follow the stories of two young people who are struggling with inner secrets. II liked the layout of the book a lot. Every two chapters switches between David and Leo, and even their font is different. This is good in case you have to stop reading, when you go back to the book you know who you are currently with just by looking at the type used.

I really liked the way the characters are all pretty well rounded for us. We get a good sense of who most of the characters are and their values. Obviously there are some key people in there, like Leo and David who we get to know really well. But then their friends and family are slowly teased out as well. There are a few characters that are not explored as deeply, but I didn't feel like I wanted to know them better either. The baddies made me super angry, and Leo and David left me feeling very protective of them and their futures too.

There were a few points in reading this, when I got really scared for them. There were points when I was kinda worried about reading more in case something awful happened. There are some disturbing scenes in it, but it stops short of being too adult. At one point I was thinking about the movie "Boys Don't Cry" and I was really over-thinking what might happen to these kids who I had come to care a great deal about. That was a hard moment, but I was spared from anything horrific.

This book is as much about hope and about bravery, as challenges. Brave because sometimes in order to be yourself you have to make some choices that leave you not just without support. Sometimes it leaves you with nothing but venom and hate. But then hope as well, because sometimes you don't realise just how much the people around you will adapt so that you can find your happiness as well. Or not even need to adapt, because you are you no matter what you are wearing and they see that.

It also helped to show me that kids who aren't eased into the ideas in this book, could be unnecessarily cruel to people who don't deserve it. LGBT and especially transgender/trans-sexual issues have been in the news a lot lately, because of various bills and legislation that discriminates against them in the US. I think this would be an excellent book for teenagers to read, either in a classroom setting or outside with some parental guidance, if you feel you need to. It was a brilliant and gripping read and I really loved it.

Click here to read the profile of savta

Review by: savta (Jo)
Dated: 4th of February, 2016

Link to this review Report this review


This Review: 10/10
Score 10 out of 10
Score 10 out of 10
Lose Track of Time:
Score 10 out of 10
Personal Choice:
Score 10 out of 10

Thank goodness for this book. After reading it through in one session (because I seriously could not put it down) I realised that here, finally, was a book that should be compulsory reading for every school teacher and guidance counsellor. There is so much useful information available within this well-told, interesting story.

Although it is designed for teenagers, this book is equally recommended for adults. While some of the subject matter is challenging, the stories of Leo and David are told with empathy and any explicit material is included only because it is essential to the plot development. At no time does the author condone violence or the use of alcohol: they are featured (albeit in context) but certainly never gratuitously.

I asked two adult friends to read the book as well. This was no hardship as, like me, they found they could not put it down. One is a teaching colleague, the other a school guidance counsellor, and I had feedback from both of them inside three days. They were unanimous - this is a book that needs to be on every school staffroom shelf as it answers the awkward questions and gives a feel for what young people who are experiencing gender dysphoria are actually going through.

I have not yet had the chance to ask a younger person's opinion, but, having worked for many years with transgender youngsters myself, I can see many young adults welcoming this book. It is written from the perspective of two teenagers and the writer has captured beautifully the effect of normal teenage angst coupled with the stress of coping with being "different". Irrespective of the reader's own sexuality or gender identity, there is something there to affirm - either themselves, or that friend they have never quite understood.

The actual style of the book is fluent and the pace never stalls. Every word is selected for impact; the plot development weaves seamlessly between Leo's and David's stories. As characters, they are credible as are their friends and families. Coming from two very different backgrounds, they convey the impression that it is not where you come from - what matters is who you are inside.

The appendix at the end of the book features a reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an invitation to check out the Amnesty International website. Given that the story features the inevitable school bullies and haters alongside the marginal groups (emos, nerds, etc.), it is a timely reminder that it is important to recognise the equal right to existence of those who are "different".

We will never completely eradicate bullying in society whether it is grounded in racism, homophobia, transphobia, or indeed any other point of difference. But we can make a start, and schools are a great place to sow the seed for change. In general, young people have two great qualities. They are passionate and they are basically fair. Including books like this for secondary students (and indeed some intermediate age students could well be ready for it) would go a long way to help. And for young people who are questioning just who or what they are, material like this can help them to make sense of the world as they realise they are not alone.

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