Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson


Title: The Art of Being Normal
Author: Lisa Williamson
Genre: Teens & YA, LGBTQIA
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published: 31st May 2016
Available Edition(s): Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374302375
Date read: 9th June 2016
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

I received an e-galley of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


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.

First of all, thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for The Art of Being Normal for the opportunity to receive the ARC of this book.

When I requested for this book on Netgalley, I never thought I would like it so much. While I’ve read lots of YA LGBTQ+ fiction, it’s mostly about gays and bisexuals (sometimes pansexuals and asexuals). This is the first time I read about transgender in a real, published book.

The book is told in David (Kate) Piper, and Leo’s POV in alternate chapters. The book started from David’s point of view.

My heart breaks a little after reading the first few pages of the book. David only have two friends, was bullied at school for being different, and although it was unintentional on his parents’ part, he thought his family likes his sister more than him. It’s like he was living in his sister’s shadow and I can’t but feel sad for him because he’s like a ball of hurt.

That new school year, Leo Denton transferred to David’s school. I wasn’t sure how their lives are going to intersect at first, because they are not even in the same year, and Leo didn’t seem like he wanted to make friends with David at first. My question was answered when Leo saved David by punching Harry, the bully from David’s year.

From this point on, I couldn’t put the book down. I finished this book in one sitting. David’s problems were pretty much straightforward; trying to come out to his family that he’s a girl in a boy’s body, and trying to fit in. In this book, I guess, it was Leo that intrigued me the most, especially about the mystery about what happened in February.

I know that it was most probably connected to why he transferred school. I thought it was because he decided to come out that he’s a trans, but boy was I wrong. It was much more that that, and I was appalled by how cruel teenagers could be when they are bullying their peers.

I think what I love the most in this book is the friendship, and also David and Leo’s relationship with their family respectively.

Essie and Felix, David’s best friends are funny, and the fact that they are protective over David just warms my heart. I also like David’s character, him being persistent and not giving up trying to befriend Leo. I think that David and Leo helps each other grow as a person. And I like to think that David and Leo’s relationship grew more in the end, especially after the alternative Christmas ball that David’s best friends and Leo organized.

At first, I wasn’t that fond with David’s family, and Leo’s mom. David’s sister was a pain in the backside sometimes, but that was normal. But his parents… Although they are nice, they seemed to fuss more about Livvy than David. However, it was nice when David finally came out to them, they were supportive about it, and took the time to read all of the research that David has done. And his it was nice that his sister was there for him when it counts.

Leo’s family, on the other hand, is a bit difficult. I like his twin sister and younger sister, Amber and Tia respectively. They seemed protective of him, and Amber’s one of the two people that Leo is comfortable opening up to. And as I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t too fond of Leo’s mom. Leo and his mom always seemed to clash, and okay, at first, I was stereotyping her a bit. A single mom, who had a lot of ex-boyfriends, smokes, and goes out at night when she’s not working. I thought she didn’t really care about Leo. Boy was I wrong. When his family thought he was missing, his mom was worried sick about him. Revelation was made at that moment, a revelation that made me ashamed for judging too quickly.

I guess the saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ is true after all.

In conclusion, this coming-of-age book is a fun read, and also an eye opener. It talks about sensitive issues, and mentions diverse characters. I love that it has wonderful character development, and teaches us that things are not what it seems sometimes. I also love that romance wasn’t really a big part in this book, instead it focuses more on David and Leo’s relationship with their family.

I rate this book book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it to everyone.

So, have you read The Art of Being Normal? Tell me what you think about it.


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