“The Art of Being Normal” by Lisa Williamson


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.


Have you ever finished a book and thought…that it was IMPORTANT? That the story that’s being told is one that everyone should hear? That’s how I felt about “The Art of Being Normal”. I feel like everyone NEEDS to read this. It’s an important message about our society today. And it it’s just a damn fine book, too.

David has a secret. He hasn’t told his family. He hasn’t come out to the world with it. Only his best friends, and his trusty journal know the truth. If he could be anything in the world…he’d want to be a girl.

Now, I’m certain this isn’t the first book about a trans youth. And I’m thankful that more and more are being published and kids and adults alike are being exposed to the message. But, what makes this one special is that it’s…thought-provoking. For instance: David knows everyone thinks he’s gay. But in his mind, despite having a penis and being attracted to the popular boy in school, he’s not gay. He’s a straight girl trapped in a boy’s body.


Enter Leo. Leo is from the “wrong side of the tracks” and transfers to Eden Park to get an education that will help him escape his difficult life. Leo is tough and mysterious. And David is attracted to him immediately. What I love about this attraction is that it’s not about like or lust or love. David feels connected to Leo in the way that you know you’ve met someone who’s going to change your life.

Leo has his own secrets. And page after page, I was terrified to find out. And then I was terrified that someone else would find out. Oy, the angst!

And just the struggle of being a kid these days…honestly. I sometimes can’t believe how hard it is to grow up nowadays. Never mind growing up being a little different than the other kids in school. I get fiercely protective of those being bullied…reading it makes my stomach tie up in knots and I want to crawl into my Kindle and make it right. Yeah…this book was a bit of a punch in the gut for me.

Lisa Williamson writes a book that is BRAVE in it’s content and it’s characters.

Important. Read it.


The characters in the story are really likable. Yes, they fill the stereotypes of those in most YA books today. But I believe the roles they play in this book. I believe the bully is just an ignorant idiot. I believe the musical girl is cool and playful. I believe the tough kid from across town has a roughness and a softness to him. I believe the awkward feminine kid has more to him than meets the eye. And the writing was really impressive. My first book from this author…looking forward to more.


The messages of this story: friendships, family, being true to yourself, standing up for yourself, being different is ok, It-gets-better…they all work today to present a story about hope. They don’t compete with each other. They actually build each other up. And though it was sometimes hard to read the tough times these kids go through, I want felt HOPEFUL by the end.


There is a story arc in the book that deals with Leo finding his father. It’s emotional and hard to read. It’s also uplifting and funny at parts. But, I wonder if it really needed to be in the book. It might’ve been unnecessary to the overall story. Still…I enjoyed it.


Ok, well, it’s definitely for those who love to read YA. It’s also for those raising children and wondering how to approach topics like transgender. But ultimately, its for everyone, really. It’s eye-opening, heart-opening, mind-opening. Good for the soul.


25689042TITLE: The Art of Being Normal

AUTHOR: Lisa Williamson
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
LENGTH: 352 pages
RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2016 (2nd Edition)

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