For What It's Worth

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

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 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

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.

21 comments:

  1. The blurb confuses me, dunno who is who

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Their pov's are very distinct in the book so there isn't' any confusion at all.

      Delete
  2. Ah definitely not the read for me but glad you enjoyed it even with the few issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a nice story overall even if it didn't wow me.

      Delete
  3. I bet the soap-opera-esque stuff was to keep the teens hooked... maybe?? And maybe the lulls got fixed in the final copy... hopefully :) This isn't my type of read but it's good to see the focus on friendships - love that!!! Great review!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was used to force a few situations and make them deal with the things they needed to. It works int he end but felt a bit unnecessary.

      Delete
  4. Awwww, this sounds like such a sweet story! Full of sad moments but moments that turn around and give us hope. I can't imagine this being an easy or light read but I'm glad that you enjoyed it, K! <3

    Epical review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a surprisingly light read despite the seriousness of the subject matter.

      Delete
  5. Oh good catch! I would think that (giving benefit) the author titled the chapters that way for continuity, but as for Leo... I would assume that would be disrespectful. Even so, I'm glad books are coming out like this. Education is usually the key to expose and discard prejudice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It just kind of goes against everything I've been learning on the subject. I wondered if I was missing something but most LGBT reviewers said the same.

      Delete
  6. You just foun the perfect excuse to invite the author over and ask what's up with Kate/David

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just read another review of this one that mentioned the Kate/David thing and how they didn't like how they didn't refer to her as Kate. I have this one to read coming up, so it's good going in to know some of this stuff. Hopefully it won't be too slow of a read!

    -Lauren

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seemed so weird to me coming from Leo AND the author -t he two people that I would think would get it right.

      Delete
  8. This is precisely my kind of book! The use of wrong name and pronouns is disrespectful, I agree, and it surprises me that the author made that choice. I can't wait to read and discuss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it Maja and I would love to know what other readers think about the pronouns. I was wondering if it was just me. If it came from any of the characters - other than Leo - I would have understood. They probably need to be educated but Leo should know better.

      Delete
  9. I have this story on my to read list as well. I'm curious to see if I feel the same way. Great helpful review.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Interesting - didn't know this featured transgender characters. I also recently read If I Was Your Girl..
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw your review for that and I really want to read it.

      Delete
  11. This sounds like an interesting book. I only have read one book about a transgender person before, but I would be interested in reading more. I like the sound of how being transgender is a very different experience for both these characters. And that's unique it doesn't turn to a romance, I would've expected that from the blurb. That's a shame it's a bit slow in some places and that issue with Leo still calling her David, but it sounds like a good book overall. Great review!

    ReplyDelete