The Art of Being Normal

>> Monday, February 27, 2017

Author:  Lisa Williamson
Recommended Age: Young Adult
Publisher:  David Fickling Books
ISBN:  978-1-910200-32-2
Year Published:  2015
No. Pages:  353
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Main Character Gender: Transgender
Read & Reviewed by: Anwyn

“As the chorus kicks in I feel people looking at me. Essie immediately begins to dance, flinging her arms in the air and singing along. But I’m rooted to the spot, too afraid to make any sudden movements. Even though Leo has paved the way at school in some respects, I’m still a boy in a dress to most people; David Piper in drag.”
This is a novel about being your true self. This is a story of being transgender.

In Year 11, Leo Denton transfers schools with one goal: to be invisible. This task is much harder than you might think as rumours fly about Leo’s abrupt arrival at Eden Park, a posh private school in the outskirts of London, England. We discover that Leo has transferred from his poor local, public school after being bullied and attacked for being a transgender man. Leo hopes his new school will be different. It’s not. Leo is outed after standing up for a fourteen-year-old boy named David, who is actually Kate, a trans woman frightened about coming out. The two strike a friendship and when Leo runs away on a quest to find his biological father, Kate, dressed as a girl, joins him. Will this journey give them the answers they are looking for and let them live as their true selves?

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson is written in first person narrative but switches from Kate’s voice to Leo’s voice, every few chapters. The use of multiple first person narrators helped me understand the themes in the novel and the characters that much more deeply because there was more than one perspective. Since both Leo and Kate have their own unique voice, I never got confused about who was talking. It also helped that the author chose to present each voice in different fonts. When Williamson would switch narrators, I was always left with a strong need to read more about that character. I would try to race through the next section only to be pulled into that character’s story. Williamson used present tense to create a fast pace and plot twists to keep me spellbound.

Leo and Kate seemed like real people that lived off the page. I thought Leo Denton was the most important character in the novel because his story showed some of the violence the transgender community experiences. Without Leo, David would not have had the courage to come out as Kate. Leo shows incredible and inspiring strength. Both the main characters seemed like real teenagers and I felt like I knew them as I read their stories.

I notice that people in my town don’t talk about the transgender community enough and this novel was important to me because it taught me about some of the violence, intolerance and prejudice the transgender community can experience. Some of the other themes in the novel are about the importance of being your true self and of the value of acceptance.

The Art of Being Normal is a book for every young adult and I would rate it a 10/10.

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