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TonyTalbot

TonyTalbot

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Charles Dickens, Mark Ford

3/5: The Art of Being Normal

The Art of Being Normal - Lisa Williamson

Since the age of eight, David has wanted only one thing: To be a girl, a secret he keeps very much to himself. But when Leo Denton arrives at his school, events start to spin into a new direction…

This is the first book I’ve ever read about trans-gender teens. It's a long way from the YA of ten or more years ago - all we got then was "Oops I farted." Kudos to Williamson for taking it on. It’s a gentle introduction to the subject, split evenly between David and Leo (Leo is hiding a secret of his own, but no spoilers).

Of the two, Leo is the more interesting character. His family dynamic is diverse and more edgy, his story moving the plot along more than David’s, which is quite static. Leo came alive, while David was a more of a shadow. They come from very different backgrounds and families, but they find a common ground and a shared secret.

Williamson could have made this story very dark – TG suicides, self-mutilation, the horror of being trapped in a body that isn’t the right sex, families who won't accept you – but she largely skips over the tragedies, brushing into low grade bullying and dodging the bigger issues of non-acceptance.

Instead, she takes the story in a different direction, showing how positive this can turn out, the power of finding a friend and acceptance for who you are. It’s heart-warming rather than depressing or despairing, and that made it more refreshing.