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. ~ Goodreads
Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
The Art of Being Normal is told through the alternating pov’s of two transgender teens – David (trans girl) & Leo (trans boy). What I loved about the two different characters is that their experiences, although similar, were also unique to them. They come from different socio-economic backgrounds, are at different stages of transitioning, telling friends and family and have experienced different levels of transphobic bullying.
David/Kate and Leo are two very different people. While David/Kate is scared to reveal her secret – she’s still optimistic and joyful overall, while Leo is wary, angry and closed off after a lifetime of disappointment. Yet they form a tentative friendship – which does not turn romantic. A trap I thought the author was going to fall into but thankfully didn’t.
I also liked how TAoBN showed some of the struggles transgender teens go through. Some obvious like bullying but also gender dysphoria, dating and family reactions while still making this a somewhat lighthearted story about the universal desire for love and acceptance and teenage awkwardness.
After a strong start, the story flounders a bit and struggles to take off but picks back up around the 100 pg mark. There’s a side story about Leo’s father that acts as a catalyst for several events for both Leo and David/Kate but felt a little unnecessary.
One thing that did strike me as odd though - was how both the author and Leo addressed David after she revealed herself as Kate. The author herself still titles Kate’s chapters as David and Leo still calls Kate he/David most of the time. Would Leo do that? Shouldn't he know better? It felt wrong and disrespectful to everything that Kate was trying to do and be and the message the author was trying to send.
I rarely read other reviews before writing mine but I wanted to see if anyone from the LGBQT community mentioned this. Maybe there was something I was missing or didn't understand but several reviewers did bring it up as well.
The Art of Being Normal was a sweet story that focused more on friendships and family instead of romance and I really appreciated that. It stumbles at times with slow pacing and soap opera style twists but overall is quite enjoyable.