‘One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my class was told to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. This is what I wrote:
I want to be a girl.’
The school bully calls him ‘Freak Show’, his parents think he’s gay, and, in fact, only two other people in the world really know the truth, but at Eden Park, David Piper isn’t the only one with a secret. Leo Denton, who just wants to get through the school day without being noticed, has a secret too, and when David and Leo meet their secrets won’t stay secret for long.
It’s been really great to see so many books written about LGBT characters, published over the past few years, but the fact is that the T part of that acronym is far too often forgotten, and it was for this reason that I was so excited to read The Art of Being Normal.
However, I was also nervous. The idea of a cis author writing about trans characters really worried me, but, thankfully, my fears were very quickly allayed when I realised how well-written this book is.
Lisa Williamson writes with incredible insight; I have many close friends who are trans and so much of what is written in this book reminded me of conversations I’ve had with them, especially with regards to their worries about passing, and also the body dysmorphia that comes from looking at yourself every day and not seeing the person you know you really are. The scenes in which David measures every part of himself and realises his body is changing in all the ways he doesn’t want it to change, are heartbreaking to read, and I just wanted to reach through the pages and hug him.
The characters of David and Leo are so fascinating, and so dynamic; these characters leap off the page at you and you can’t help but become completely invested in their lives, smiling every time they are happy, breaking every time they are in pain.
I personally would’ve loved to have seen and heard more from some of the other characters in the book, particularly Leo’s family, whom I felt came across quite one-dimensional for a large portion of the book. This lack of investment in the other characters left me somewhat detached throughout and I found it difficult to get into the story when there were other characters beside Leo and David involved.
Despite this, however, I firmly believe Williamson achieved what she set out to achieve in writing this book, and ultimately told a story about characters who are far too often forgotten by mainstream media. I only hope that this will be the first of many stories that give transgender people the representation they deserve.
This is part of a series of reviews I am writing leading up to YA Shot, a UK day-long convention celebrating Young Adult and Middle Grade literature, which takes place on October 28th 2015.
To read more reviews from authors attending the convention, click here.