Book Review, Books!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Hey all, Dani here.

Continuing on with my celebration of the American Library Association’s GLBT Book Month, I want to talk about this great book I read recently, which focused on two awesome characters, who just happen to be transgendered teens.


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 his class 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 , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

From the very beginning of the book David tells you that he wants to be a girl, feels that he was supposed to be a girl. In fact, after finishing this book I have to actively focus on referring to the character as he/him for the purpose of this review. I guess I just have no issue accepting a person as they wish to be, so I have no problem following her story as it progresses.

David’s friends, I think, are awesome for accepting who David is, and I actually love that they lovingly tease him about the guy he has a crush on.

But David has been struggling with wanting to tell his parents the truth, and it isn’t until a friendship forms with new student Leo that David is able to have that confidence…and that’s because he finds a confidant like no other in Leo, who was born a girl and has already transitioned.

Now, I have to take a moment and say that the families of both main characters were a special highlight in the book for me. David’s parents seemed cool and as David struggled with how and when to tell them the truth, I already had a suspicion that they would accept who David wanted to be because they loved him. And even though Leo’s family had some issues, obviously his mom supported his decision to transition because she refers to Leo as a boy and doesn’t use his female birth name and such. So in the end, Leo’s mom is also a great supportive character.

It was nice to see those positive family dynamics in the story. There are just so many stories out there in the YA universe where parents are absent or cruel, and while that works sometimes it just isn’t always true to life.

Part of me would like to have a short story, possibly a novella, set a few years after this book, just to check in on the characters and see how they’re doing. I want to imagine that David has fully transitioned into who she means to be, and maybe both she and Leo are going to the same university or something. I don’t know; I just want to see them in happy healthy futures, whether that is as good friends or maybe they become a couple. Either way I would be happy for them.

All in all I ended up giving this book a rating of 5 stars, and I highly recommend it.

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