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.
I received this book from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Art of Being normal focuses on David and Leo, two teens who are trying to find their place in the world. Trying to find acceptance. David wants to be a girl and this he (I say ‘he’- not out of disrespect but he never makes it clear in the book that he wants to be called using female pronouns and has no reaction when people do call him a ‘he’) knows from the time he’s a little kid. He’s parents assume he’s gay so he goes with it because he’s scared to tell them the truth. Leo used to be a girl and I think the outlook of David, being pre-transition (assumed gay) and Leo, being mid-transition was clear and mostly precise of what it could be like. Everyone’s different and all families will react differently, and this is very well highlighted in this book.
Characters: David was a great main character. I liked that he really tried to be positive about life even though he hated everything about the body he was in. He was a loner despite the fact that he had two best friends. He says it a lot throughout the book that they’d do couple-y things and he was left to his own devices. The thing about David was that he wouldn’t get mad when people called him ‘he’ but he’d hate it when they’d think he was gay. There’s a quote where he thinks: ‘I’m not gay, I’m just a straight girl stuck in a boy’s body.’ David’s tendency to push made me not like him as much as I wanted to but the pushing turned out to be a good thing in the end.
I liked Leo a lot more than I did David. He started out as this mystery kid that everyone thought was weird but David immediately felt connected to him (as I was reading I said that David’s ‘trans’-dar was being activated). I loved Leo’s gloomy, ‘I’m not getting involved’ attitude but I didn’t like that he and his mom couldn’t have a closer relationship or talk freely without arguing.
David’s parents seemed like supportive people but David kept saying how he could see the disappointment in their eyes. He knew they loved him but he didn’t want them to hate him. I mean, how do you tell your parents that you were born in the wrong body?
This book had a bunch of amazing supporting characters. There were those that stuck up for both David and Leo and those that made life a living hell for them. This helped build the characters and I think in the end they came out stronger than before.
“Besides, who wants to be normal anyway? Imagine that on your gravestone. Here lies so-and-so. They were entirely normal.”
Likes: I liked what this book stood for. I liked all of the characters even though there were a few annoying moments here and there. I liked that this wasn’t a fantasy view. It was realistic and the real deal.
Dislikes: I don’t like that it took nearly halfway through the book for the ball to drop. It was clear that it was coming but it took a bit of a length to get there.
I’ve never read a book that focused on transgendered people before and I’m so glad that my introduction was so clear, and educational. Reading this and going through what the characters went through was almost like a day in the life. I know that this in no way allows us to fully understand what these people go through.
I loved the plot and the writing style was amazing. The characters were easy to relate to and I loved how we were able to see into both FTM and MTF transitions.
Read: 20 March 2016
Publication Date: 31 May 2016
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Link to Author’s Goodreads Page: Lisa Williamson