The art of being normal

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Tart-of-being-normalwo boys. 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 eleven 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…


Mallory – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:53 am

Lisa Williamson has written a touching book about developing minds, self-doubt, friendships bonding over things in common, even if that similarity is unknown and withholding life-changing secrets. Williamson writes about two teenagers, David and Leo that are immediately drawn together for an unknown reason. If Williamson had given the opinions of other characters in the story such as Leo’s twin sister, his mother or David’s closest friends, Zoe and Felix, the readers could have understood the situation, context and event in more depth, as well as be more emotionally connected to each of the characters. Despite this, Williamson has captured both David’s and Leo’s isolation extremely well and has subtly implied it in every chapter (like when David’s friends are having “Girlfriend, Boyfriend time”) to allow the readers to truly get the whole story. This is a fantastic book that introduces so many unaware people into the lives of living as a transgender girl or boy.

Ellie – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:53 am

The Art of Being Normal follows the lives of two teen boys, David and Leo, however, one wishes he wasn’t identified as a boy, the other is hiding the truth of his past. I found the book touching and engrossing, as I sympathised with David and wanted to uncover Leo’s past. The book was also inspirational as it shared the struggles of a transgender teen. However the book lacked opinion from family; people such as Leo’s twin and David’s sister, who you would think that (because of their big roles in their brothers lives) we would get to know more of their opinions and reactions at certain points throughout the book. Altogether I enjoyed it, and it made me reflect on how I would react if someone close to me declared that they felt more comfortable as the opposite gender, but felt the book would be more sincere if we had more reactions, from those close to David and Leo. As support (or lack of) from surrounding people can play a big part in anyone’s life, especially a teen who wants to transition, and a teen who is initially running from his past.

JB – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:53 am

Lisa Williamson wrote such a compelling story. I loved reading this book and I understood the book through her writing. Williamson really shows the struggle of David’s and Leo’s life. How do their lives evolve? Well that is a twisted road that you just have to follow. Two personalities intertwine to reveal one society, one person, and one personality shared. Both are struggling with bullying and help each other to fight off the bullies and they find things about their past through adventure. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the book and think that everybody can connect with this story.

Roya – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:53 am

The Art of Being Normal talks about two young boys. The story tells of their experiences together, how they were treated – both fairly and unfairly – during their toughest times and shows the feelings of a transgender teenager. It is during these experiences that the two characters develop an incredible but strong and inspirational friendship.

When secrets of the teenagers’ pasts are revealed, they rely on their friendship to get through the upsettingly cruel and unjust situations.

The story flowed well overall, but the change of characters would often confuse me, and I think that this was worsened due to the fact that both of them had a sister!

However I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was really an eye opener to see what transgender teenagers are going through at the moment, and how it can be helped with awareness.

Bee – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:53 am

The book was written really well and the switching point of views was done really carefully as Williamson is careful to avoid any spoilers. The Art of Being Normal explains David’s struggles and triumphs and his journey to “being normal”. The relationship between David and Leo and the way it evolves is really interesting and thoughtful. The book explores different emotions and ideas whilst still remaining realistic.

Jack – Year 8 – Causeway School

18th November 2016 at 11:52 am

The Art of Being Normal is a very interesting novel, as it explores into what it means to be transgender. It is quite a complicated book, so it can be hard to get into in the first few chapters. However the further you progress in the book- the better it gets! It has some clear themes to it and it is a very heartwarming story that I am sure many people can relate to the different characters in the story. Overall, a great read but at the start hard to get into reading. it.

Tabby – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:52 am

In this book Williamson explored the minds of two teenage boys, David and Leo. Both of the boys have secrets that they don’t want anyone else to know. When Leo joins the school David immediately starts to feel a connection to him. David and Leo soon become friends and form a very close bond. Together the boys help each other to get through the difficult times of school and stand up to the other people around them who don’t understand what they are going through.

The Art of Being Normal is an insightful book which helps people who don’t know much about being transgender to understand it more. I think that this book can connect to most teenagers whether they are transgender or if they are being bullied, everyone can understand parts of this book.

It is a page turner and I couldn’t put this book down. The changing of points of view are interesting and done very well to make sure that this book stays exciting and intriguing until the very last page.

Tolu – Year 9 – Benenden School

18th November 2016 at 11:52 am

The Art of Being Normal is a book depicting the life of David who longs to be a girl and Leo who wants to be invisible. Lisa Williamson has added quite a lot of depth to the main characters however there was not enough back story behind them.

It was quite predictable when we got closer to the plot twist; however it was a nice reveal.

The one thing this story lacked was a variation in the reactions to David’s coming out.

Amelie – Year 9 – Roedean School

18th November 2016 at 11:52 am

This is another example of a book that revolves around what is slowly becoming a much talked about topic; transgender people. The main character, David, wants to be a girl, and hides this from everyone he knows, meanwhile Leo is the new kid at David’s high school and also has secrets. The story has a strong narrative, and goes about many sensitive topics well, however the whole happy ending gives a false sense of reality as to what it really is like to be transgender.

Being transgender means many people don’t understand, and it is generally very hard for people to be accepted into everyday communities, but this was completely skipped in the Art of Being Normal. Yet, David is accepted by his friends and family, as well as the rest of the community with abnormal ease. All in all, I enjoyed it but it is not very informative on the subject of outing yourself and the possible reactions that would come as a response, instead only focusing on the best case scenario. Rate: 8/10

Maia – Year 9 – Roedean School

18th November 2016 at 11:52 am

The Art of Being Normal is a story that deserves more attention as it discusses the topic of the transgender community. The story follows a young transgender girl, who has just begun her transition and is learning to deal with the judgment and lack of tolerance from those around her.

This is a book that I would recommend to everyone for an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Farah – Year 9 – Roedean School

18th November 2016 at 11:52 am

Lisa Williamson has written a novel based on the subject of being transgender. Williamson takes us through the journeys of two lives showing us the struggles and challenges they face. David Piper finds himself longing to be a girl however, does not have the courage to tell his family. In this story, his judgment changes when Leo, a mysterious character appears who harbours a secret. The story line portrays how younger people are reluctant to discuss gender issues with their parents or guardians. Williamson shows that friends or people you can relate to can make a huge difference to confidence. Essie and Felix are his close friends that help him in his journey demonstrating how important friendship is. The Art of Being Normal is a well written story and I enjoyed it very much. I was lured in by the story which sends out a strong message on transgender issues.

Tabitha – Year 9 – Roedean School

18th November 2016 at 11:51 am

The Art of Being Normal is a great book about two teenage boys named Leo and David. After Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unusual friendship forms. The Art of Being Normal is about the difficulties the boys face together and in their own lives. Although in parts the book became a little boring, I think it is worth reading as it shows us that being a good person does not mean you need to be society’s version of normal. Overall, this was a lovely book and I would recommend reading it. Rating: 7.5/10

Islay – Year 9 – Roedean School

18th November 2016 at 11:51 am

This is a book talking about the real issues and abuse that transgender people face from people who are ‘normal’.

David is a boy who always dreams of being a girl and hates the fact he isn’t. He keeps this secret from everyone but his best friends, Essie and Felix until a new kid, Leo Denton, stands up for him at school. This book describes well the fact that even if you are born a certain way it doesn’t mean you have to be a certain way and the word ‘normal’ does not decide anything about you other than what is an unreachable and undesirable state.I love this book and how it confronts a modern day issue on prejudice and how it describes what life is like for transgender people and how they face prejudice and abuse.

Max – Year 9 – Brighton College

18th November 2016 at 11:51 am

A moving story that will grip you until the end.

“The room is silent. I keep my eyes closed as Alicia’s hand shoots from mine.”

After Leo stands up for David in a fight, the two become good friends. But things get out of hand when Leo collides with funny schoolgirl Alicia Baker.

The Art of Being Normal is an incredible, moving, mind-altering book that gives the reader a fascinating chance to step into the life of a transgender teenager and realise how hard it must be to be accepted. I adored this book and could not stop reading it until I had finished it in under a week. I would recommend this to anyone willing to see life in such an eye-opening way. Although this book portrays the characters well and has a great story line, the start of the book is not entirely intriguing. However I recommend you read on as the book becomes very intense and addictive. I found it particularly interesting that you could see the same thing from two different points of view as the book is split into two different perspectives. Overall I think this book is definitely a must read for all teenagers.

Alanna – Year 9 – Brighton College

18th November 2016 at 11:51 am

“Touching and just simply unforgettable…”

The art of being normal is a very touching book. When I started reading it I just couldn’t’ stop. I’ve never really talked about a book that talked about transgender issues because there aren’t very many, but this one is definitely a book that deserves to be read.

I think that Leo and David are both very deep characters, I found it really realistic the way the author added a lot of modern culture to it, especially the song lyrics. At the start Leo and David are somewhat alone against their own situation, but that kind of changes to having someone who understands them. I think that ‘The Art of Being Normal’ is a really great book and I completely recommend it.

Leah – Y9 – Ratton School

18th November 2016 at 11:51 am

The Art of Being Normal is by Lisa Williamson and about transgender children who are trying to get a grip on their lives. It was published in 2015 and gives you an insight into modern day gender transition. Leo is the mysterious new boy in school that has so many secrets you don’t know where to start, but then there’s David with the biggest secret of all; he wants to be a girl. Little do they both know, the boys are more alike than they thought. The Art of Being Normal is set in a town called Cloverdale but throughout travels up to Kent. Overall this book leaves you respecting life in a whole new way. I would give this book a 9/10.

Sam – Y9 – Ratton School

18th November 2016 at 11:51 am

“The Art of Being Normal” is a book that is very aware of the things that are happening in the world today. Set in London, it covers both the poorer side and richer side of the city. The book talks about the struggles of coming out as trans or anything else in the LGBT+ society, while not making light of the heavy issues that sometimes accompany it. The characters has the same amount of development as a book series, such as “The Hunger Games” while still being concise. There are so many twist and turns in the plot that keep you entranced; everything that happens fit together.

I recommend this to everyone that would like to find out the struggles of the LGBT+ community, and/or doesn’t know how to come out. I give this beautiful novel 5 stars out of 5.

Oscar – Year 9 – Brighton College

18th November 2016 at 11:50 am

Overall a really good book and I would recommend it to anyone. However, I thought it was a bit of a slow start getting to the point of who Leo is and what his story is, although it does give some clues. It was very interesting without any dull moments and you always want to read on. The ending is perfect without anything super shocking and dramatic. It’s just a perfect way to finish in my opinion. A good book overall.

Levi – Year 9 – Ratton School

18th November 2016 at 11:50 am

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson is a moving novel, which is a beautiful insight into those suffering from gender dysphoria.

It is written from the perspective of two teenagers at the same high school, and every few chapters the font changes to signify that the writing is from another’s perspective, and the changes add tension and suspense to the story. The plot is interesting and unique, and contains some very well thought out characters, from the deeply secretive with much to hide, to the arrogant yet insecure.

Overall, I think that The Art of Being Normal is an incredible work that everyone of age 13 or over should read.

Katie – Y9 – Brighton & Hove High School

18th November 2016 at 11:41 am

As I had expected, this was my favourite out of the nominated books. It was a very well written book about being transgender, which I think is a very important topic, because there are still people who don’t understand it and trans people are far too underrepresented in books and films.

It showed many different examples to people’s reaction to being transgender, from being completely accepted to shunned, and I feel like it was a very accurate portrayal of the life of a trans teen. Furthermore, Lisa Williamson didn’t romanticize any of the pain and dysphoria which the characters went through, which I feel happens far too often when LGBTQ+ characters are represented in the media.

The characters were brilliant, all completely distinctive but all so likable. I laughed when they laughed, I cried when they cried. They were constantly tested by themselves and the people around them, and there weren’t any moments which were boring for me. The ending wasn’t really what I expected, but I really enjoyed it and felt like things were wrapped up beautifully.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, and I think it’s my current favourite.

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