The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Two boys. Two secrets. David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two 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 11 was definitely not part of the 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...
David - David is 14 years old and he has always wanted to be a girl, but he has only confided in his two best friends, Essie and Felix, about his secret. Some people can tell that there is something different about David, but no one knows for sure, though as it says in the synopsis his parents think he's gay. As David has not told his family or really anyone his secret, this book shows his journey and documents the near times where he's nearly told them but stopped at the last minute. He only builds up enough courage to tell his parents when he meets someone else who is also transgender.
I enjoyed the character of David as he was a lot of fun, but there was sadder parts when it really showed that he wasn't happy being who he was. He was quite a funny character and I really liked his sense of humour. I loved the friendship between him, Essie and Felix, but I did feel sorry for David as Essie and Felix are a couple and it showed that David was occasionally a third wheel. Overall, I enjoyed the way David was portrayed as a character and I found myself actually caring for what would happen to him.
Leo - Leo is quite a grumpy character but that reflects on what happened to him. He doesn't want to get close to anyone, he doesn't want friends and he almost certainly doesn't want a relationship with anyone, yet. Leo is in the year above David at school and they meet when David invites Leo to eat lunch with him, Essie and Felix. But obviously Leo refuses as he doesn't want to talk to anyone. Leo has had quite the past and you can really see how things changed him into this miserable shell of a person.
He has anger issues which occasionally shows throughout the book, as he tries to calm himself down but sometimes fails. He has a twin sister called Amber and a younger sister called Tia.
It comes across that Leo hates his mum and it's true that he does but by the end he realises that everything he's grown up to believe may actually not be true, despite how bad he thinks his mum is.
Essie - To be completely honest, I don't think there is enough of Essie and Felix in the book to completely get a good grasp of them, despite the fact they were mentioned in basically every chapter.
From what I gathered Essie seems to be supportive, kind and generally what you need in a friend. She is 100% supportive of David and who he want to be which I absolutely loved. Generally, I loved Essie.
Felix - Like I said above, you don't really receive enough information about Felix in order to get a good grasp on him but from what I gathered he seems to be supportive of David and what he wants to be.
Felix is definitely the weaker one in his relationship with Essie, which I found to be quite surprising and funny.
I didn't like Felix as much as I liked Essie, which disappointed me, but he was still a good character.
David's Parents - His parents were everything that I wanted them to be, supportive and just understanding in general. I remember that when I first read this book that I was worried whether they would still love David/Kate or not, but I was so relieved when they took it the way they did.
Amber - Amber is Leo's twin sister and you don't actually see her a lot in the book, but I thought I may as well include her anyway. She was supportive of Leo's situation at times but there were moments where she did get angry at the way he refused to make friends or generally get close to anyone.
Tia - Tia was just a little sweetheart! I just loved how she reflected the exact behaviour of a little kid and how she was just so much fun. I especially loved the end scene with her when it's snowing as she was just so darn cute!
Olivia (Liv) - Olivia is David's sister and is a couple of years younger than him. Despite the fact that she is his sister, you don't actually get any insight whatsoever into who she is or what she's like. I would love it if Lisa would write another book but with other character's POV (including Olivia's) as I would love to know more about what Olivia thought. In the book Olivia is transitioning into High School and she's growing up (which may cause some problems with David). I couldn't really say whether I liked Olivia as a character or not as she's barely mentioned but I think I would've liked her if there was more to her character.
Leo's Mum - I felt that she was misunderstood. Yeah, she might not win a World's Best Mum anytime soon but she's trying! I would've loved to hear about her whole past and how she felt with Leo's transitioning as I really wanted to get to know her character and why she's like the way she is. Although, you do get to hear about some of her story. Overall, I thought that she was ok as I didn't really like her but I didn't really hate her either. She was a well-thought out character.
Leo's Dad (Jimmy) - Uggh! I hated him with a passion! I hated everything about him, the way he treated Leo's mum, the way he just got up and left and most of all the way that he treated Leo and David. Leo's Dad is the freak. (You won't understand unless you read the book!)
Overall, I thought that the plot was well-thought out and the book was beautifully written. I loved the dual-POVs though I would've loved if there were more character POVs. I found it really useful how there were two different fonts, one for each character as it helped me keep on track with who was speaking and overall I just thought it was a nice touch.
At times I would think the characters were slightly younger than they actually were but for the most part the characters actually felt like the age they were supposed to be.
I loved that Lisa decided to use the LGBQT+ in this book as for a lot of authors they are scared to use this topic as it can be quite touchy. Some of the other LGBQT+ books that I have read have been terrible, mainly because the author didn't do a great job of capturing the feeling within the characters, but I felt that Lisa did an absolute great job!
First time reading : 5/5
This time reading : 4.5/5
If you've read this book then please let me know what you thought about it down below!
Also, please leave some LGBQT+ book recommendations down below,whether the book is well-known or unheard of, I just really want to read more books of this topic.
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