So this is going to be my first proper book review on here. My review is on a book I finished last week called ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson.
This book is so heartwarming and beautifully written about David Piper and Leo Denton, two students who attend Eden Park School. David is a year below Leo and wants to transition into a girl. However, he is too afraid to confront his parents and thinks they will disown him if he tells them the truth. David’s friends know that he is transgender and are very supportive. Harry Beaumont, however, is the school bully and picks on David and calls him ‘Freak Show.’ Harry and his infamous gang are bullying David and this is where Leo comes to the rescue. He stands up to Harry and slowly but surely Leo and David strike up a friendship. At first it’s just Leo teaching David math but soon David’s persistent character manages to grind Leo down and we see a different side of him.
I enjoyed how Lisa has written each character separate chapters in the first person so we can truly get a feel for their personalities. Lisa’s plot almost reminds me of Jacqueline Wilson’s writing and the issues she talks about; especially when Leo goes searching for his Dad.
My favourite character has got to be Leo Denton because at the start of the book he’s guarded and likes to fly under the radar, so to speak, and then he changes by the end of the book into a more open person. I think it ties in well with how Lisa reveals Leo’s big secret because even the readers don’t know about it until Leo himself says something. This describes perfectly how Leo and David are the narrators of their own book; they slowly trust the readers with their guarded lives and slowly reveal themselves – especially Leo. To let David and Alicia know his secret was a big step for Leo and proves that as the story goes on, he learns to trust again. Eventually we see him unravel as Lisa slowly breaks him down. By the end of the book Leo still isn’t totally open but he has made a giant leap and has gone on a long journey.
David is also unrecognizable by the end and comes a long way, with the help of his friends and family, to accepting and being who he is on the inside.
I’m so proud that there are more books being published highlighting issues such as bullying regarding being transgender; being different. There are times in this book where I wanted to cringe and put it down, fearful that if I read any further, something bad was going to happen. But as much as this book is centered on issues such as bullying, there are also some wonderfully heartwarming moments of acceptance and support that could bring tears to your eyes.
Lisa portrays Leo and David’s differences from others as a good yet tough experience; she teaches that you don’t have to be normal to fit in – you just have to be you. Lisa definitely did her research; especially on testosterone and transitioning in the UK. After all, she did work at GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service). However, for someone who isn’t transgender herself, Lisa certainly knows a lot about how it can feel to be transgender and how painful dysphoria can be. She became inspired by transgender teens when working at GIDS and decided to write The Art of Being Normal.
Overall, I feel like this is one of the books I found hard to put down and I had no idea how it was going to end.
Let me know what you thought of The Art of Being Normal in the comments!
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