The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

“One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my class was told to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Miss Box went round the class, asking each one of us to stand up and share what we had written. Zachary Olsen wanted to play for the premier league. Lexi Taylor wants to be an Actress. Harry Beaumont planned on being Prime Minister. Simon Allen wanted to be Harry Potter, so badly that the previous term he had scratched a lightening bolt on to his forehead with a pair of craft scissors. 

But I didn’t want to be any of these things.” 

When rumoured bad boy Leo turns up at Eden Park School everyone is talking about him and what he must have done to get kicked out of Cloverdale, the bad school in town. David however is just curious, there’s something about Leo that intrigues him and he wants to get close to him. David has a secret that stops him wanting to get close to anyone. Its a secret that only his two best friends know, he is a girl trapped inside the body of a boy. Leo has plenty of secrets too and being the new boy in school he just wants to keep himself to himself and let people think whatever they want to think about his reputation. When events conspire to bring the two boys together they find out more about each other than either of them expected to, but the question is can they in turn help each other figure out exactly what track their lives should be on? 

***

It isn’t often that I find a book that I fall madly, deeply in love with, a book that I whittle away hours reading without even realising that hours have gone by, and one that I read without barely putting down because it just so good. This book is one of those and I am sad to have actually finished it.

The story is told from alternating perspectives between David and Leo and tells of their struggles both as people completely separate from one another and then, as the book progresses, as friends. It is about David, who is struggling to pluck up the courage to tell the world who he really is, and about Leo, a boy who obviously has serious issues and is determined to live his life as lonely as possible. The two of them form a friendship when bad boy Leo ends up in trouble for punching David’s bully and from there you get the feeling that the two of them will become friends, even if there is still some reluctance.

The characters were fantastic and I loved that I got to know them as real people early on in the book. There is a fair bit of backstory but it really allows you to understand them as people and understand their actions later on in the book. I was rooting for David the entire way through the book, from the very first page which starts with the quote above. Leo took a little bit longer to get to know but that is because of the tough shell he has, which isn’t even broken easily for the reader, despite the fact that his parts of the book are told from first person perspective just like Davids. Its like Leo is hiding himself from himself just as much as other people because he’s determined hes going to get hurt, which is awful.

This book does offer a huge rollercoaster of emotions and the topics it covers are fantastically interesting. I could tell that Lisa Williamson had done a lot of research into Transgender teenagers, and all kinds of teenagers and she put that into her writing really well. There wasn’t a single point where I thought ‘Yeah right, that wouldn’t happen’ or scoffed at something a character said and I absolutely loved how spot on she got the relationships – especially the sibling relationships – within the book.

I honestly can’t rave about this book anymore. It has a huge series of 5 star reviews on goodreads, and mine was a five star rating too. It deserves it because in all seriousness it was one of the best books I’ve read this year and the best book I’ve read about transgender teenagers ever.

The Art of Being Normal was published on January 1st by David Fickling Books. Thank you to the publisher who sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
 
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