Book 32: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

First and foremost, I think it is important to point out the importance of this book and the fast that I am cis-gender. I cannot speak for the trans community, so I will not even try to talk about how someone that is transgender might see this book.

I bought this book for the library after reading some good reviews, and then, when it came in, I instantly scooped it up for myself for some weekend reading. I was just expecting a good story that had a biological male MC that identified as female. Boy was I wrong. This book (though not winning any awards for extreme creativity or excellent writing) was a witty and cute interpretation of how it is living in another country and being trans. It was so cute that I read it in one sitting (well, maybe 2. I took an Overwatch break at some point).

This book follows David (Kate) Piper. He is a biological boy that wishes for nothing more than to be able to openly identify as female. This is his biggest secret, and only his two best friends know. Then comes Leo Denton. Leo stops the school bully from picking on David, and this sparks a friendship. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a slow friendship, but a friendship nonetheless.

With this friendship comes secrets that David and Alicia (Leo’s girlfriend) are not prepared for. For David, it’s just overwhelming, but for Alicia, it is devastating.

I cannot say that this book is extremely sensitive or insensitive to the trans community, and I am not sure that has been critiqued at all, but I do know that some think this is not written for the trans community. I’m not sure about that either. I think any bit of fictional literature for a trans teen would help as long as it does not paint the events in a light that harms the community or makes light of the real issues. I cannot see either of those things, but I will say that it is another book that a cis-gender student could pick up and gain some insight into the trans community (even if we are peering into the shallow end).

I will say this is my complaint (well, complaints): the voice and the trends. This book has the voice of someone in their late twenties at least. Maybe that is how teens in England sound, but I have a feeling it isn’t. I’ve seen The Office. If grown men do not speak like this, I am sure 15-16 year old teens do not either. I also think this book has one too many references to pop culture and technology that might date this book a little too early. It might be in there intentionally to make this book seem timely: like, OMG, can you believe this was an issue THEN?! I think it would be just as strong, if not stronger, without these constant mentions of pop culture.

For readers, I think you will like this book. I find it hard that some do not enjoy the writing and light-heartedness mixed with the serious topic. I say read it. If you don’t like it, let me know what it was about it that you did not like.

For librarians, if you haven’t purchased this yet, do it!

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