Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryDavid 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.

Review: I think any book about being transgender is important in some way because it's a topic that is important and needs to be focused on. I read a couple mixed reviews of this book before I ever started, so I was a bit wary going in, mainly when it came to how the author represented the character of David. Throughout the book Leo is called Leo, his chapter titles are named Leo, and everyone thinks of him as he is - a boy. This makes sense because Leo is living as a guy from the beginning of the book. David is still living as a guy, not a girl like he wants. I think the issue for people is that David isn't referred to as his chosen name once he reveals it. but again, this didn't really bother me.

David might eventually reveal what he wants to be called and that he wants to live like a girl and not a boy, but he isn't officially "out" or living this life until the very end. Once we get to that point, David is no longer David. Because this was an issue for people, I just thought I'd share my two scents, as well as prepare any future readers who may find it strange! Again, this is just my opinion and kind of how I see the author's reasoning for how she titles her characters.

As for the overall story, though, I thought it was done fairly well. It's a good book for teens who don't necessarily know what transgender means or who have negative connotations. It's easy to see that both David and Leo are regular teenagers in a lot of ways. They have friends, problems with their families, siblings, crushes, and everyday school to deal with. Of course, their lives are not as easy as some other teens because of their unique situation of having been born in the wrong body, but I appreciated that Williamson made these characters are realistic as possible. That's important with these books. They might have differences, but they are just teenagers at the end of the day.

Because I live in the United States, any novel that is written and set in a different country, counts as a Bridge the Gap book. The Art of Being Normal qualifies as it's set in England.


Lisa Mandina said...

This sounds like one I'd really like to get for my high school library. We had a student this past year who began dressing as a girl, and I think a book like this would be helpful to the students around who maybe don't know how to react, and maybe for the student as well. Great review, and thanks for sharing!

Mary Kirkland said...

Sounds like an interesting story. I haven't read one quite like it.

Unknown said...

Gender issues is very controversial lately so any book that opens a discussion and portrays the issue in a good way is a great thing to have.

Unknown said...

Looks like a great read for those who feel like a fish out of water!

Lola said...

I am glad you enjoyed this one. I read another review of this book which mentioned the name thing, so I am glad it didn't bother you. It's probably handy to know that beforehand. I am glad you enjoyed this one and think it's a good one for teens.

JezzebellJC said...

I would probably agree with you on how the name is handled. I'm glad this is one that people can learn things from and see more from the point of view from a person going through that added pressure in their life. Great review!

Keionda @Keionda Hearts Books said...

Hiya girl! This sounds like one of those books that would help someone who is going through the same thing! I can't imagine what it feels like to be going through something like this but I feel that we can all take a lot form it and will finally be to understand and relate to all the things someone experiencing this feels like!

Thanks for sharing this epical review, lovely! <3

Verushka said...

You're right, a transgender story that hits the right notes is definitely important. This sounds like it did for the most part?

Heather @ Random Redheaded Ramblings said...

This sounds like a great read and I love the fact there is so many more books out about teenagers that are not cookie cutter copies of the next!

Jennifer @ Bad Bird Reads said...

A transgender book fits with how I world is going right now. I would love to try this one.

Lola said...

I haven't read that many books about transgender, but there's one that comes to my mind - Two Boys Kissing. I've read more books about intersex - None of the Above - than transgender I think. Great review, though! I have this one at home, so will be reading it eventually :)

Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity said...

I'm glad you liked this one, Lauren.

I still have a major problem with the misgendering and use of David in reference to Kate for a lot of reasons. One of them being that it doesn't bring to the table how important it is to NOT misgender and call someone by a name they don't want to use anymore. Trans kids (and older) face this problem all the time, so to just dismiss it and not explore it was, in my view, a failure on the author's behalf.

I do think that this would be quite a good book for someone who wants to learn the basics of what being trans actually means, because it explains gender in a very black and white kind of way. I do think there are better books out there that explore being trans, but this one was pretty good overall.