The Art of Being Normal - Lisa Williamson

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 at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that 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 , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.


Williamson's novel is rather impressive. David and Leo will live on in the memories of readers since they are so solidly rendered. David's struggles are realistic, and the reasons behind Leo's reluctance to be social and build a friendship with David are heartbreaking. The stereotypical bullying scenes and uses of transphobic language feel somewhat unnecessary, though they do bring a sense of realism to the story. I have many thoughts on the use of actual instances of transphobic language use in YA as it could be an unnecessarily triggering situation, but I shall leave the bulk of that commentary to a possible future blog post.

There is a lot of commentary about lies and trying to hide the truth from each other. Leo's mother, though not painted as a fully sympathetic individual, has tried to keep details about Leo's father from him in order to protect him. Of course, this doesn't tend to work, and it causes a lot of friction between Leo and his family. David also tries to spare his parents by allowing them to think he is gay, rather than telling them the truth, and although they are much more supportive than some parents in YA, the lack of truth does cause trouble.

Overall, this book is quite well written, informative, and emotionally fulfilling. I definitely Recommend this text for those interested in trans narratives in fiction. The interplay between Leo and David's experiences is well worth the read!

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out May 21, 2016)

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