The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Genre: Contemporary, Coming-of-Age
Published by: David Fickling Books
Format: Hardback (library copy)
For one of my university creative writing portfolios I’m writing a play featuring a transgender protagonist, so I have been trying to read as many trans POVs as I can! I’ve already read If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo and George by Alex Gino, both of which I loved, and The Art of Being Normal has been on my TBR since Maddie read it over the summer and really enjoyed it, and then we found out there’s going to be a sequel! I’m so happy I picked this one up, because these kinds of books are really important. Although The Art of Being Normal isn’t an own voice story the same way the others I’ve mentioned have been, it was authentic and respectful of transgender teenagers.
The Art of Being Normal is told from two perspectives: David and Leo. David is struggling with how to tell his parents that he wants to be a girl, and is the butt of a lot of jokes at school. All goes down hill when one of his classmates gets a hold of the journal where he marks the changes in his body everyday. Leo comes from a different background, living on the other side of town where his mum is mostly absent and spends her time jumping between boyfriends. Leo’s new in David’s school and everyone’s intrigued by why he moved. He becomes involved with the beautiful Alicia, but something keeps him from taking their relationship to the next level.
I really liked how this transgender narrative dealt with David’s nervousness surrounding telling his parents the truth. It didn’t try and tell the whole story of a transition in 400 pages, which makes me ridiculously excited for the sequel! I also appreciated the realism focused on bullying and being attacked because reading that one scene where the bullies tie someone up is something I’m not going to forget anytime soon. Harrowing.
I think there was really great juxtaposition between David and Leo. Their narratives were different and unique, and where you feel nervous for David in the first half, you feel nervous for Leo in the second! I wondered for a while how the two of them were going to come together because Leo’s a bit prickly and likes to keep his distance, but David is super friendly and considerate.
The families of both characters are really important to the story. They’re where the majority of the issues occur, with David worried he’ll be disowned and Leo’s side quest to find his father, and that just made me so emotional! I wanted to hug Leo and Daniel for being so brave ALL the time. I’m not really sure how bothered I was by Leo’s search for his real dad because I feel like I’ve seen that in a lot of middle grade stories and it always ends the same way.
I felt like the final part of the story was trying to wrap things up too Happily Ever After. Leo’s eyes were suddenly opened to his family’s true history and illuminated about his current situation, which was lovely for character development. As for David, it looks like he has a very bright future, which makes the sequel only that more exciting!
I’m really glad to have read this book, especially because the writing was emotional and had such clarity, and I’m sure Lisa Williamson will be an author I follow for the rest of her career! Overall, I gave The Art of Being Normal 4 stars because it’s hard to fault!