Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review: "The Art of Being Normal" by Lisa Williamson

Lisa Williamson's The Art of Being Normal is a moving, well-written reminder of how brutal, yet how beautiful, the world can be to those who are different.

David Piper has really never fit in. Apart from his two best friends, most of his fellow high school students ridicule him for being different. One of the school bullies has called him "Freak Show" since they were younger, but David is willing to wait him out until high school ends. His parents think he is gay, and are waiting for him to tell them.

What David wants, more than anything, is to be a girl. But as he grows taller and more like his father, he wonders if this will ever be a possibility.

Leo Denton is the new kid in David's high school, coming from a poorer area to the more posh private school. Overly exaggerated tales of his exploits at his last high school follow him, but he lets people say what they want about him. Yet while he wants to remain under the radar, two events occur which ensure that wish isn't granted: he stands up for David when he is being bullied, and then he falls for one of the most beautiful and talented girls in school. It's not long before secrets he hoped wouldn't be exposed come to light.

I felt The Art of Being Normal so accurately captured the feelings one experiences when you are different, when you are bullied, and how you just wish you could hide to avoid the ridicule and abuse. Williamson created such complex characters that you feel for and root for, characters you think about after the book is over. Even if once the story hits its stride you have a feeling how the plot will unfold, you're completely drawn into the characters' lives and you want to know what is going to happen.

Like so many YA books out there these days, this type of book didn't exist when I was growing up. I'm so glad that it exists now, however, and hope that people read it, are moved by it, and perhaps convinced to change their behavior, to understand that their definition of "normal" isn't everyone's. So well done...

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