Monday 2 May 2016

Review! - The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title: The Art of Being Normal

Author: Lisa Williamson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

The bookish online community has me chomping at the proverbial bit in terms of the contemporary genre (especially YA.)

(Because I clearly wasn't reading enough genres before *rolls eyes, smiles*)

So to get a start on my epic TBR, and take advantage of the books I can get my hands on without selling my blood for book money, I borrowed this from the Welsh libraries ebook system.

(Because we actually have some of our priorities right here in Wales - and I'm happy to say that literacy is one of them. Sorry, I'll stop being smug and/or political now.)

This is a book about transgender people. I am cisgender and so do not have enough prior knowledge to truly analyse the representation of trans people in this book.

So, here's some reviews I found from the perspective of transgender reviewers:

Here's a review from Goodreads user Neo.

And here's a review from transgender reviewer James, who blogs/booklr's @ Crusing For Content


Kate has a secret. It's not, as her parents suspect, that she's gay.

Kate is not gay. Kate is a straight girl, stuck in a boy's body.

Leo Denton is the new kid in school. He just wants to put his past behind him. But sometimes past events won't let us be.

Two kids*. Two secrets. And one hell of a term at Eden Park school. 

(Kate is referred to as David throughout the book, but as she has chosen the name Kate, I have amended this review to only call her Kate.)

Best bits:

Firstly, let me just make this clear from the start:


...I basically spent a couple of days snapping at anyone who dared to interrupt my reading of this book. My family must think I've been in a really bad mood (oops.)

Anyone who has ever felt different will be able to sympathise with the struggles of Kate and Leo.

The bullying scenes in particular will break your heart, and Williamson really pushes the button marked 'ouch' in terms of the feels.


You know those books that you somehow feel in your bones? Yes. This book is one of them. In spades.

It's well-written, sensitive but not sentimental, realistic but not grim, and has complex and hugely believable characters.

My bookish friends, this is a good book.

It deals with trans issues. It manages to do it well.*

I also loved the supportiveness of Kate's mates, and Leo's twin sister - it always makes me smile when characters have people to fall back on, even if they're not the biggest part of the story.

And the parent-stuff was handled quite well too.

Yes, in places we have the trope of absentee parents, but it's addressed as a real relationship/family issue instead of a lazy plot device; which is certainly refreshing.

(* but see the 'not so great bits' for improvements that could be made.)

Not so great bits:

Usual warnings for stuff that might upset people: a bit of swearing, the smallest bit of violence, transphobia, family issues, and bullying, all feature here.

Also, there's some underage drinking, and references to underage sexy-times, and parts of male and female anatomy.

All of these things are handled very well, and I can't see them bothering the majority of people.

I got a bit disorientated over whether we were in Leo or Kate's point of view at various moments, because both are written in the first person.

Annoying, but not the end of the world.

I also worked out what one of the major plot points (relating to Leo's father) was going to be from pretty early on, so it really didn't come as the surprise I think it was probably meant to be.

Whether this is because it was obvious, or because I read far too many books, is difficult to say.

It didn't spoil my overall enjoyment though: this is a great book.

Although I still think this book is awesome, I've become aware that there are issues with dead-naming Kate as David throughout the book. And mis-gendering her as him.

I decided to come back to this review and add this note because I felt it was an important point to make.


Guys, if you're a fan of YA and/or contemporary, read this book.

If you're a fan of well-written books, with complex characters and a hell of a lot of heart, read this book.

Seriously, you'll love it.

(This review was amended on 24th October 2016.)

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  1. YES THIS IS RIGHT UP MY ALLEY! YA, Contemporary and LGBT, what more could you really ask for?! So happy you loved this and I must read a book on trans issues soon!

    1. You would love this book. I was actually reading it and thinking 'Emily will love this book!' Lol :)

  2. I have heard a lot about this book and apparently it is supposed to be really good and really does handle the topic it centers on well. I'm gonna have to try this one myself as well. So glad you could love this one a lot :D


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