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TonyTalbot

TonyTalbot

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Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens, Mark Ford

4/5: Am I Normal Yet?

Am I Normal Yet? (The Normal Series) - Holly Bourne

Evie is recovering from OCD, an OCD bad enough she had to be 'sectioned' - restrained for her own health. This is the story of her recovery, of her wanting to be normal…

The story pulled me in from that start with Evie's fast wit and humour coming right out in the first few pages. She's a delight to spend time with. But under her one liners and comebacks is a very vulnerable and frightened young woman, terrified of relapsing into her OCD hand washing and hygiene obsession.

Evie tumbles through the book, making mistakes and learning what it means to be a 'normal' teenager, coming to realise that such a thing doesn't really exist. She makes bad choices over boyfriends and misinterprets the actions of her friends…in other words, she learns very well what it is to be 'normal'.

When Evie suffers a relapse at the climax, we're invested enough to weep for her, to go through her malfunctioning head, her disgust at what she's doing to herself and her inability to stop. It's a powerful piece of writing, watching her brain turn on itself.

There are problems with the story though. Most of the discussions about feminism are integrated seamlessly into the story, but there are a few which felt like author intrusions, pushed into the plot while the author made a point. I found it unlikely that Evie is a major film buff, yet every reference to the wider world of movies (The Bechdel test, Manic Pixie Dream Girls) had to be explained to her - it would have made more sense to do it the other way round.

In a wider sense of The Bechdel Test (two women in a movie have to discuss something other than a male), there's a segment where the characters meet for breakfast. They comment that a movie would cut to them talking about a boyfriend and nothing before - which is exactly what the book does! Very odd piece of writing to complain about something and then do it yourself. There were some odd typesetting errors that should have been caught as well.

One of the fun parts is the little asides Evie captions her life with – bad thoughts, good thoughts, unhelpful thoughts. It makes her come alive even more and jump off the page.

Overall, a great book to be pulled into.