There are not very many books about transgender teenagers. More than there used to be, but still not enough. Which is one of the reasons I was eager to read The Art of Being Normal, by Lisa Williams. I read with great hope but also a pinch of trepidation because negative representation can be just as harmful, or more harmful, than no representation. As a cisgendered person, I’m not the best person to comment on this, but I do want to link this review (which, be warned, does contain spoilers) by a transgender blogger which points strengths and weakness within the story.
This British novel, alternates perspectives between David and Leo. David wants to be a girl. Leo, who also has secrets, wants to fly under the radar at his new school. This becomes harder when he stands up for David in a fight and the two become friends. But when secrets become unsecret, as the back cover will tell you, things are about to get messy. Plenty of drama ensues to propel the story forward.
I enjoyed both characters and their distinct voices a lot. Although the story starts with David, I found myself more drawn to Leo and his subplots – dealing with a new school, first love, the abandonment of his father, and adjustment to his mom’s new boyfriend.
I’m usually okay reading about tough issues/moments, but I did have to put this book down a few times after particularly tough bullying scenes. I’m, unfortunately, sure they were probably realistic. But they were really hard for me to take.
Still, I’m glad that I read this book and got to spend time with David and Leo. I hope there will be many stories about transgender people coming out soon that focus on all sorts of experiences, not just coming out, but I also think this book is probably an important step in gaining more diverse representation.
*I received a free copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions written are my own.