“When I was eight years old, my class was told to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Zachary Olsen wanted to play in the Premier League. Lexi Taylor wanted to be an actress. Harry Beaumont planned on being Prime Minister. Simon Allen wanted to be Harry Potter, so badly that the previous term he had scratched a lightning bolt on to his forehead with a pair of craft scissors. But I didn’t want to be any of these things. This is what I wrote: I want to be a girl.” – David, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Greetings bibliophiles, I’m back, and just in time for September’s book recommendation. I have been eager to talk about The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and spread the word because it is an absolute gem. It’s been a hectic month (half of which I spent in sunny Spain, hence the lack of activity) and I’ve read some truly inspiring material, but this was by far this month’s stand out.
This book’s title and cover art spoke to me immediately. I quickly turned to the first page and after only a couple of sentences I surmised that this was without doubt a Daniel book. You only have to glance at the cover to work out that this is a book about being transgender. I have always had a deep respect and empathy for the Trans community because as much as my gay friends and I harp on about the lack of gay representation and diversity in mainstream cinema and literature, this part of the LGBT community have been overlooked and misrepresented the most. Thankfully this seems to be changing, somewhat. I’ve definitely heard more discussion and seen more Trans characters pop up in mainstream cinema and literature in the past couple of years. I guess that’s a start.
This was a remarkable debut by Lisa Williamson and I can’t wait to see what she does next. It was a real eye opener for me. When you grow up gay there is always that painful transitioning/coming out period where you slowly learn to accept yourself. It can be pretty terrifying. This is magnified for someone coming to terms with being Trans, and coming out is only the beginning of their long and painful journey to becoming their true selves. Reading this book made coming out as gay seem like a walk in the park. It’s slowly becoming the norm, as it should be. The Trans community definitely face a much deeper stigma and ignorance, even in modern society. Education is the best way to combat such ignorance. That is why this book is so amazing. It puts you directly in the shoes of someone coming to terms with being transgender and by doing so it opens both your eyes and your heart. This book has two main protagonists, David and Leo. They are two very different individuals with one thing in common. They are both harbouring a secret.
David wants nothing more than to be seen and accepted as a girl, while Leo doesn’t want to be seen at all. He'd rather be invisible. Although the two share little in common, they become friends after Leo intervenes during an altercation between David and a school bully. As the pair get to know each other, they also get to know themselves better. David has always felt like a misfit. He is taunted by bullies and been called freak since he was little. He feels as though the world just doesn’t understand him yet. His family think he’s gay, he wishes it were that simple. Thankfully he can confide in his two best friends, Essie and Felix. These are the only two people that know David is not a he at all. Leo is the mysterious new guy at Eden Park School. He’s from the rough side of town. Things didn’t work out at his previous school and people assume he’s some kind of tough guy. Rumours quickly form that he’s dangerous. He doesn’t mind as long as it keeps people away. There’s just one problem, being seen as a bad boy in a posh school quickly gains him a lot of female attention. He may not be able to wallflower his way through high school after all. The characters in this book feel very organic and authentic. I loved the contrasting feel of this novel. It’s gritty and romantic. It’s realistic and optimistic, and it’s heart-breaking and hopeful. It portrays all shades of life and it does so beautifully.
I’m not going to divulge too much of the plot, because it is full of surprising plot twists, and honestly it’s best if you don’t see them coming (I literally gasped). What I will say is this, this book has the power to inspire and change lives. I’m not just talking about transgender lives; this is a book we should all read. The better we understand our brothers and sisters, the stronger we become as both individuals and as a society. Ignorance is fear and knowledge is the cure. We are all so different and our gender and sexual orientation are just two small facets of how diverse we truly are. This is not something to fear. It’s something to celebrate, and that’s exactly what this book does. It’s a celebration of life, love and acceptance, and it is an absolute joy to read. I can’t stress enough that you do not have to be a member of the LGBT community to love this book. It is a book that anyone can enjoy and relate to. There is a common thread in all of my favourite books. They all feature characters that are different; the misfits, the odd balls, the minorities, the misrepresented and the misunderstood. I simply love diversity in all of its wondrous forms. The world would be a very drab and miserable place if we were all the same. Given our current political climate, it is imperative that now more than ever we band together and celebrate our differences. Let’s enrich each other’s lives instead of inciting fear, shame or pain. This book is a revelation, and a powerful one at that. If you want to be moved, inspired and enlightened then grab yourself a copy, you won’t regret it. Well that is it for this month my lovelies, until next time may your days be filled with peace, love and poetry x
“Normal” kids don’t see therapists. “Normal” kids don’t have mothers like mine, who tell you life isn’t fair with messed up glee, like the unfairness of life is pretty much the only thing they know for sure. I’ve spent my whole life being told I’m the complete opposite of “normal” – Leo, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson