Young Adult fiction is at the top of its game right now. Month after month a whole host of wondrous tomes are published with each one setting the bar that little bit higher.
The Art Of Being Normal has stepped out from the current crowd and gone where very few mainstream YA novels have gone before. It addresses a myriad of sensitive topics including the ‘usual’ horrors a teenager faces – bulling, being different, the confusion of first love – but it also addresses topics rarely seen in YA fiction. Gender is explored in great depth, sensitivity and detail in this novel – the main character is a boy who wants to be a girl.
I can’t recall ever reading a book with a transgender protagonist which leads me to the assumption that there isn’t enough LGBT mainstream fiction out there. Perhaps I have managed to inadvertently avoid the genre or perhaps The Art Of Being Normal really is the first novel in the modern YA world to stand and proudly wave the LGBT banner.
Williamson has written an incredible book. Without being male or transgender I was worried there would be a certain level of disconnection from the novel but surprisingly I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards David, our protagonist. I felt his fear, his anger, his confusion and I wanted to make it better for him. I wanted to shout into the world that being different isn’t wrong.
An unlikely friendship develops in the book between David and a new student at his school, Leo. They couldn’t be more different on the surface but as their friendship grows and their trust strengthens, it becomes apparent that they share more in common than they first realised. This realisation gives hope to the reader that even if they feel alone or appear to be the only one suffering with a certain affliction, doesn’t mean that they are. You’re never alone.
That’s the strongest message this novel shouts.
You are not alone.
Waterstones have chosen The Art Of Being Normal as one of their ‘loved’ books for the month of January and I’m incredibly excited to see what happens with this book. I can see its name high on prize lists this year and would place money on it becoming one of the most talked about novels of this year.
I highly recommend this novel and hope it opens the door to welcome more LGBT into UKYA fiction.