The Art of Being Normal – UKYA Book Review

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson


Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day of school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in Year 11 is definitely not part of the plan. 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…

This was such an amazing book – I sped through it in a day, I just couldn’t put it down. It absolutely hooks you in, and the fact that it’s written in 2 perspectives makes it all the more amazing (get to that later).

So the book is set in England, and follows to boys, David and Leo. The book starts of with a prologue about David, and it’s one of those paragraphs which start off normal, and then all of a sudden – bam. One line just twists everything upside down. The first few chapters were a little confusing, which made it slightly harder to read as you kept wondering what on earth was happening, but it did pull itself together further on in the book. 

I said earlier about how the book had 2 POVs. I really enjoyed reading from both Leo and David’s perspective, and it was soooo infuriating when the author ended the chapter on a cliffhanger, and you couldn’t continue on because it was a new POV! It’s easy to read and follow, as each POV is marked with a different font. I really appreciated the change of fonts, as I’ve come across books (*cough* Allegiant *cough*) which have nothing to show that it’s a new perspective, except for a tiny header underneath the chapter title, which you’re certain to miss.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the POVs is how well positioned they were in the storyline. The author really thought about which character it would be better to hear the story through. For example, one of the bullying chapters is told through the eyes of David, as he is the victim, rather than Leo, the onlooker. Therefore, this evokes emotions in you, which David feels – the embarrassment, fear and anger. When Leo is brought into this scene, the POV stays in David’s perspective, which I liked as you don’t know why he’s doing what he does. I realise that last bit made no sense whatsoever, but I was trying not to give away too much!

I really liked the different topics the author brought into the story. Apart from David’s struggles in being transgender, there is also lots of bullying and problems with family relationships. David also finds it hard to be in school. He only has 2 friends, Essie and Felix – and to most of the other students in school, he’s known as ‘Freak Show’. It’s great that one book has managed to carry so many important topics, and it’s amazing how the author Lisa Williamson wrote in first person, in the shoes of 2 boys who are struggling so much.

Right, that was the positives of the book… now it’s time for some of the problems I had.

I think that the author should’ve given Leo a bit more purpose and reason for being in the book. He should have had his own ‘big’ problem to fight, rather than just the smaller problems such as bullies and relationships. I realise he helps David a lot, but apart from that, I think he should have had his own personal problem, that links in with the rest of the book, rather than just finding his dad. In a book about transgender issues and bullies, I just thought that David’s dad was slightly random!

Another problem I had was with Leo’s family. It was slightly unnecessary, it didn’t really play a very important part in the book…the family was just kind of…there. It’s not like they really helped him – except for Amber, but even that was just words of ‘Oh, go make some friends, you’re too lonely.’. They were just unhelpful, with discouraging clichés like – ‘Life’s never fair.’

However, it is Lisa Williamson’s debut novel, and despite the flaws, it was definitely worth reading. If you want a break from YA novels set in America, then definitely read this (set in the UK). Also, if you enjoy David Levithan, John Green, etc. authors, then this book is perfect for you.

We haven’t done star ratings for our book reviews before – but I’ll do a rating for this book. I’d give this book 4 stars!


– V


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