The Art of Being Normal Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Two outsiders. Two secrets.
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 Year 11 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....
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 11 minutes|
|Narrator||Tigger Blaize, Zee Andrews|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||02 June 2021|
|Publisher||Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 102,003 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
146 in Fiction on Friendship for Teens
192 in LGBTQ+ Literature & Fiction for Teens
202 in Young Adult Fiction on Boys' & Men's Issues
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Top reviews from Australia
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Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.
Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lis Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.
Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.
Effie and Alex – David’s best friends. Love the support and unadulterated no-holes barred relationship they shared. So rare. At times their silliness destroyed the authenticity for me. But loved their sense of humour – had me laughing quite a lot. My favourite scene is when David points Effie and Alex out to Leo, and they pull faces – priceless!
This story brings to light much of the pain and turmoil transgendered teens face in coming to terms with their condition/identity, some of it had tears falling from my eyes. (the feels! The feels!) The relationships in ‘The Art of Being Normal’ are beautiful.
I did want to read something other than issues regarding their gender identity. This book was all about that, and didn’t have much otherwise. I’m starting to find books are using GLBTQIA issues as a plot point or the big reveal annoying: when these are issues that are dealt with for a lifetime… along with everything else. So, more everything else please.
It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.
Great pacing, I completed this novel in two sittings and never found places where my attention was wandering. Great subject matter, but I found it very predictable, though, I would highly recommend this to all my friends.
Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.
Top reviews from other countries
There are many points made in this book as if they
are fact but are false pieces of information, scientifically incorrect and therefore dangerous for young impressionable teens to read.
It is widely accepted that it is not possible to be “born in the wrong body” (even trans groups say this!) yet this is the theme of this book; it is mentioned several times. Schools and therapists in the UK are told never to tell children they can be born in the wrong body but this book wants children to believe they can be!
It is full of sexist stereotypes. Pink everything! Pink lighters, baby pink nail polish, pink lipstick, pink clothes, hot pink walls, sugary pink headphones etc all associated with every girl, woman and the boy who “wants to be a girl”.
Girls giggling and looking proud when they start their periods! What!?
This book tells girls if they are good at maths and sports or are same-sex attracted (lesbian) then they should change their body to look like a boy because those things are not for girls!!
It tells boys that if they: are no good at sports and maths; prefer long hair to short hair; like dolls; prefer pink to blue; are same-sex attracted ..then they can’t be a boy! Sexist homophobic rubbish!
The book claims that “hormone blockers” “freeze puberty” NO this is not true! Blockers do not simply pause puberty..it is not like a pause button. Mental health is negatively impacted, many become infertile and bone density is reduced. These can not be reversed.
The author talks about “chest binders” these are in fact BREAST BINDERS and are a cause of self harm. She mentions no negative side effects of these either.
There is no point to this book. Nobody aged under 18 should be exposed to this nonsense and over 18s will hopefully be better informed and the childish language won’t appeal to them anyway.
The author seems to enjoy sexualising children.
The children in this book are aged 14 to 16 yet she describes school girls in a sexualised manner.
If you are cisgender, take this story with a pinch of salt and read something written by a trans author if you are looking for a more accurate account of our experiences (I heard Mason Deaver's "I wish you all the best" is good, Juno Dawson is another trans author).
The author has done research, but despite this- there are majorly obvious inaccuracies that should've been picked up- this being the one main issue I have with this book, which pointlessly dead names the main, Kate (in which you use a person's old/birth name instead of their actual/new name). Seeing as this is one of the main books I often see in relation to trans stories- I feel like it needs to be brought up.
Note- I am mostly mentioning below points as a small hope in hell the publisher reads this and consider editing these points in future editions of the book.
As a trans person, I feel like cis/non-trans readers should also be aware of this when reading in order to understand some inaccuracies, whilst a lot of the characters experiences and emotions in this book are fairly accurate, this novel is not the most accurate account.
If you are trans, this might not be the book for you if you if you are upset by dead naming and general transphobia (the story involves bullying and violence).
In newer editions of the book, the blurb has been thankfully edited to be less dead-namey of the main character- which was great and I was thankful for, hoping in the updated version it was brought to the book. Why the hell it wasn't in the actual book I have no clue.
Despite the author working with trans youth and supposedly doing research (and editing the blurb in newer editions) you would've thought this would be obvious. Surely someone who has worked with trans people knows how upsetting and harmful dead naming to the individual is?? (I mean that's probably why they edited the blurb?? So why not the book??)
Up until the point where the main reveals her name this is understandable but it then continues beyond this point which is defunct and pointless. The POV chapter names remain as her dead name- despite her being 'out' to the reader. Kate's true name is also used intermittently with characters she is out to- used only when she is dressed as a 'girl' and 'passing'. This shows poor research and lack of actual concern to the stories message as to non-trans people it gives the idea that the only time a trans person is valid is when they 'pass' and that our identities are like a 'costume' we put on. (Which is not the case btw)
Additionally, when the other trans character Kate is out to gets angry, they purposely dead-name her. In my experience as a trans person and of other trans people,, no trans person would ever purposefully dead name another, even IF angry (the only acceptable time is when you are with someone you are not out to). Yes, not all trans people are the same BUT it is highly unlikely that a trans person would dead name another trans person- its just a really horrible, and in this situation an insidious thing to do. The other character doesn't even apologise (which I guess would be a point (?) to the original action (?)) and continues to return to dead naming.
I really wish this book had been given to a trans person in editing, as these elements would've been pointed out almost immediately and feels disheartening as good trans lit is so far and few- this book is so close to being great and one of the better cis-written trans narratives.
Overall, I think this book is good but definitely needs further editing and guidance from trans people to make small changes to make it better. Read it, enjoy it, but understand its issues.
The Art of Being Normal is the first book about being transgender that I've ever read, and before now I didn't know much about it. I've always been 100% accepting of it - I believe that people can be born into the wrong body and that no amount of pretending to be someone you're not can change who you are inside - I believe the brain can be wired in ways so that it doesn't match the body of the person it's encased in; the mind and body are two separate things. As far as I'm aware I've never met anyone trans, but, reading this book has made me feel like I do now. Lisa Williamson managed to create two very real people, who I both believed in and felt emotion for. I actually think I'm a little in love with Leo.
There were times when I felt so much sadness for both Leo and David/Kate, but both characters also made me laugh and smile too. I loved Essie and Felix as well, the real world needs more people like them in it. I also have to admit that I liked Alicia too - I think her reaction is probably very common, and although I felt no anger or annoyance at Leo, I can't help but feel sorry for her; I think people in her situation probably feel lied to and hurt, even if they are totally accepting of trans individuals. And I think as long as they are eventually understanding and forgiving, they're allowed that moment of confusion and hurt. Additionally, Lisa Williamson created a school environment so well that I pictured every school scene taking place in my secondary school - her description of the seating plan in the canteen was so perfect that I sent a picture of that paragraph to a school friend so we could laugh about the accuracy of her description of the popular kids in the middle of the canteen.
I feel like this book has definitely taken me on a journey, but I know I'm nowhere near a place of full understanding of what trans individuals have to go through. This world can be very cruel, as Lisa Williamson has shown, and although I've dealt with abilism coming against me, I can't imagine what some people must experience when faced with the knowledge that the body they're in isn't right, and how the world reacts to this. Teenagers, and children, (plus adults too) can be very, very nasty and I can know that there must be people out there that have experienced what Leo and David/Kate did; and that honestly breaks my heart. I'm really glad I read The Art of Being Normal and I will definitely read other books that share the same themes as it.
The Art of Being Normal has helped educate me, but more importantly I'm sure there's people out there who feel more at ease with knowing they're in the wrong body by reading this book (and others like it), because it highlights the important fact that those people aren't alone; and that not all people are like Harry. The Harrys of this world are a waste of organs, and I hope this book helps to show that.
There is bullying, with the expected slurs, in the first half. Less later on. It's handled well towards the end with the trans girl character's friends shown standing up for her. I much preferred this approach to the idea of having a redemption arc for the bully, which would have been unnecessary and trite. There will always be nasty people, and good people to tell them to sod off.