Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Challenge criteria: A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with.


Two outsiders. Two secrets. David longs to be a girl. Leo wants to be invisible.

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. . .

Image via Amazon

What I liked:

Usually I set myself a 51 minute timer in which to read as much as I can. I had to set it twice more after the first one went off. I had to finish this book in one sitting.

The story had me gripped from the first page. Why is Leo so secretive about himself and his past? Who’s his Dad? Will David ever get the courage to reveal his true self to his parents? Also, halfway through the book came a MASSIVE curveball which I never expected at all. From then on, I couldn’t put the book down until it was finished.

LGBTA issues are (from what I’ve seen, and I’m very open to correction here) quite uncommon. At least in many of the books I’ve read. But this book handled David’s transition beautifully. It also showed a lot of the downsides to transitioning (transphobic bullying features heavily in this) and dealt with them in a manner that I thought really did the whole thing justice.

And, the moment Leo first refers to David by his female name had me with the biggest goofy smile on my face, you have no idea how cute it was.

What I didn’t like:

Naturally, the small minded characters didn’t sit easily with me. But I also wasn’t a huge fan of the West Side Story style “friendship forged on the wrong side of the tracks” style prince and pauper motif running throughout.

I didn’t much like the storyline concerning Leo’s father. I had pretty much guessed what he would be like when we first met him, and let me tell you I shouted out CALLED IT so loud my neighbours banged on the walls. Repetitively predictable.

Out of five:

A strong four, I’d make this mandatory reading for anyone doing their Leaving Cert/A Levels at the moment. Despite having some moments that let it down, this is a book that could change a lot of perceptions in the world.

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