Title: The Art of Being Normal
Author: Lisa Williamson
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release Date: 2015
‘Who wants to be normal anyway?’
Two boys. Two secrets.
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 year eleven 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…
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‘No matter how hard it gets, everything might be OK in the end.’
I am always trying to read more LGBTQ books because it is a genre that I very rarely find so when I saw The Art of Being Normal I picked it up straight away. The Art of Being Normal is a heartwarming, emotional read full of secrets that will keep you hooked until the very end.
David has always been different. His parents believe its because he is gay but the truth is much more complicated than that: David longs to be a girl. Its a secret that he has kept for many years, but that doesn’t stop him from being the target of school bullies. Enter Leo, the new boy who is hiding some dark secrets of himself. Leo wants to be invisible but he soon causes trouble when he fights back against David’s bullies. Before long, Leo is singled out in school as the one to watch and the pair develop an unlikely friendship that takes them in a direction they never expected.
‘I’ve spent my whole life being told I’m the complete opposite of normal.’
I’m going to start of by saying how lovely the plot of The Art of Being Normal is. This book is a true journey of self-discovery for not just David, but Leo too. Over the course of the novel, both characters learn a lot about themselves and lean on each other for support the entire way. I loved the diversity in this book. Not only does it look at LGBTQ characters but there is also a range of races with characters of both black and white. I think Williamson is taking a step in the right direction. She perfectly portrays the discrimination against particular ‘types’ of people and shows how mean the real world can really be. Williamson offers an honest look a the world and shows the struggles teenagers have to face today.
Moving on to our two protagonists, David is a much more open character than Leo. He reveals more to the reader and knows what he wants: to be a girl. David keeps this a secret to everybody except his two best friends, Felix and Essie. I really loved the friendship between these three. I am constantly complaining about the lack of friendship in YA and The Art of Being Normal really delivers with both Essie and Felix as well as Leo. I am going to make a confession, however. I was not David’s biggest fan (cue gasping). I know, David’s story is very important and I can’t imagine the struggles he has to go through, but I found him a little overbearing. He was just too enthusiastic about everything and this was a little irritating at times. Nevertheless, I really respect David’s character and I was moved by his story.
‘I look in the mirror and the kid who looks back; he’s like a stranger to me, an alien even.’
Leo is the complete opposite of David. He comes across as very anti-social. He’s quiet, moody and pretty aggressive, but I was a fan of his. Leo had great morals, he stood up for what he believed in even when it lands him in a bit of trouble. Leo does show his softer side when he develops a relationship with Alicia, and I really liked them as a couple. However, Leo is also hiding some big secrets. I didn’t actually realise what this secret was until a few chapters before it was revealed, which says a lot about Williamson’s writing. Leo does appear pretty stand-offish but I loved him nevertheless.
Overall, I liked this novel. I thought the characters were well developed and the plot made me feel things. I’d also like to point out how happy I was that Leo and David’s friendship didn’t develop into anything more. For once, the author did not romanticise these big issues. If you are looking for more diverse books to read, I definitely recommend The Art of Being Normal. It will well and truly educate you.
‘The world isn’t kind to people like me.’