Leo Denton is the new boy at school. All he wants to do is keep his head down, avoid everyone and get through Year 11 in one piece. But when he witnesses bullies picking on David, he intervenes and catches the attention of one of the girls in his class.
Told from the dual point of view of David and Leo, this is an very moving account of how David and Leo both deal with the problems that they face in trying to work out what 'normal' is.
I thought the characterisation in this book was just amazing. Leo and David were such well-written characters, both with distinct voices and experiences and they both grow and evolve as the book progresses. Their stories are told with sensitivity and humour and there were points, especially in the first half of the book, where I was laughing on one page before wanting to burst into tears a couple of pages on.
I think the author has managed to strike a very good balance between showing the struggles that transgender people can face when trying to come out to the people they love and the prejudice that can often follow, while at the same time showing that actually people might surprise you and turn out to be more supportive than you anticipated. I think it would have been easy for the author to make this book all about the struggles and woe and while that would have made for a very tense, emotional read, the book would have lost something overall. It also wouldn't have been very realistic, because while there are plenty of dicks out there who automatically hate something just because they don't understand it, there are plenty of accepting, supportive people too, and I think for a teen (or indeed anyone) who is struggling with their gender identity, this might not always be something that's immediately obvious.
I really think The Art of Being Normal is going to prove to be an important book, not only for the LGBT canon and for diversity in YA fiction, but I think it's also going to have much wider-reaching implications as it really challenges assumptions about what is 'normal'.
I found this a great book, not just for the diversity (although that's obviously a plus point) but mostly for the human story it tells.