The Art Of Being Normal - Lisa Williamson


Genre: YA
Synopsis: 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…


Review: This was a 5 star read, through and through. The writing, the characters, the way the subject matter is handled, the plot, the settings, even the cover. Everything about this book is great.

The two main heroes of the story, David and Leo, are both extremely likeable characters who hail from opposite sides of the tracks. To Leo, David seems to have a perfect home life, a family that loves him, a well-stocked fridge and plenty of money. To David, Leo is compellingly self-assured and indifferent to what others at school think of him - something David can never be because of his secret. The novel is written from alternating perspectives, a couple of chapters from one boy, then a couple of chapters from the other - which is a perfect structure for the story, because it allows us a personal insight into the mindset of each character, contrasted with how they are perceived by the other. Each also has a distinct, unique voice that never leaves you confusing the two.

In a lot of ways, Leo actually goes through far more in this novel than David (certainly in the literal sense of facing up to life-altering events), and he kind of became the main character for me. I loved David too, but I found myself rooting for Leo as he faced a couple of huge challenges. On the flipside, David gave me a great insight into a type of character I've never read before. Although high-school bullying is not uncommon, even in modern society it's no secret that a secret like David's will not go down well with the average group of young people in a school canteen mob, be it because of ignorance, misunderstanding, fear, or anything else that unawareness and stigma inspire in crowds. There were moments in this story when I found myself holding my breath, fingers crossed, praying that David would not be outed for his own sake, and ultimately I rooted so hard for 'him' to find the confidence to be 'her'. Similarly, there were times my heart absolutely broke for Leo and honestly, I was so grateful that David and Leo had each other.

Despite the heavy subject matter, this is a compelling read with lots of little plot points, full of loveable characters like Essie and Felix who support David wholeheartedly, and great writing that makes it easy to tear through. Definitely a recommended read for all young adults.

Rating: 5/5

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