Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
I saw this book floating around on a lot of people’s blog posts and the cover and title intrigued me to pick it up and I am so happy that I did! Am I Normal Yet? is a perfect blend of happy and sad moments, relatable characters and realistic events along with strong themes of feminism.
This book focuses on a character named Evie, who is diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Before reading this, I didn’t take OCD as seriously as I take other mental health disorders. It’s a term people use in passing about things that irk us.
The only other character with OCD that I am familiar with is Emma Pillsbury on Glee, but so much is exaggerated on that show, I didn’t take her seriously. Evie’s OCD makes her clean her room very often, not eat food she believes is contaminated and wash her hands till the point of actually hurting herself with the intensity of her scrubbing.
There were parts in the book where Evie was describing what she was doing that were genuinely so scary. Reading Evie’s thoughts and justifications of her actions was really interesting, as it felt like getting an insight into the brain of someone who has OCD and helped me understand her character more.
There was this constant inner struggle between her knowing that she was taking it too far and affecting not just herself but her entire family and her wanting to be irrationally clean.
While on the topic of Evie’s brain, the book is told in first person and she has such a strong narrative voice. Though she does have OCD and a major chunk of the story is her feelings and thoughts related to it, a lot of it is about her general struggles about fitting in at college, making friends, going out, meeting boys etc. I’m sure that everyone will relate to her inner monologues at some point or the other.
Holly Bourne created this extremely realistic setting with characters that are so easy to understand because we either are those people or know someone like them. Though I am not in college yet, I feel like being in that environment where no one knows anyone and everyone just wants to fit in, making friends is not that hard.
And since you’re going to be with people who don’t know much about your past, you can have a fresh start very easily. Evie took advantage of both of those factors and made fast friends with Amber and Lottie. I adored Amber and Lottie so so so much! The scene where they all first became friends was really sweet and I loved how their friendship just became deeper throughout the story.
They all have such different personalities but they connect so well, and bring out the best in each other. Another great character was Evie’s sister Rose. I love when young adult books incorporate families as an important part of the story and this book did that!
Evie’s parent’s concern about her health, her relationship with her sister, the really intense scenes that happened when she relapses, all were written beautifully and made the story a lot more special.
Something very unique about this story was the Spinster Club, a group that the girls created to discuss feminism. They meet and eat cheesy snacks and talk about gender equality. Though unrelated to the plot of the story, I loved reading their meeting as they brought up a lot of great points like how “important” films have rape and films where the main female lead makes herself ugly win Oscars.
They also talk about tampon commercials, menstruation, the perception of spinsters vs that of bachelors and the general feelings of society towards women. They also discuss how men are objectified as well and it’s unfair to have unrealistic expectations of their appearances as well. Feminism is about equality, not saying that women are better than men, and this book portrays that very well, making points for both genders’ defense.
Lottie goes into full on rant mode and hearing them talk about these issues that I also feel so strongly about was amazing. I liked how they actually spoke about topics other than love and romance, which was really awesome. This book passes the Bechdel Test! Something that I personally related to the characters about was when they talked about being a ‘typical’ teenager. I think this quote sums up both my feelings, as well as encompasses the characters’ personalities quite well:
“Do you ever worry you’re being a teenager wrong?” I thought of the last three years. “I KNOW I’m being one wrong.” “I mean, what’s wrong with finding songs glorifying domestic violence offensive? What’s wrong with finding live music too loud? What’s wrong with a nice cup of tea and a chat?”
Evie’s love life was so freaking entertaining. I was crying from laughter because it was just ridiculous! The story starts off with her first ever date, which ended really terribly and then she goes on to like and date other boys. A boy she was interested in, Guy, was literally the worst. He gave her so many mixed signals and it was so frustrating to read about their relationship. This was another factor which I think a lot of people could relate to.
A minor theme in this book was envy. Evie is envious of her friends as they are more “normal” than she is, but it didn’t just end there. She was envious of her friends being able to talk to and date boys when she wasn’t. Everyone does feel smidgens of envy now and then, even if it’s of your close friends, so I feel like adding those little quotes where Evie admitted to being jealous of her peers added an extra dimension to her character.
This book has SO MANY references! From movies to Enid Blyton books, young adult and new adult books, it was really fun to catch them. They made the story a lot more readable, easy to relate to and just added a more realistic touch to this amazing novel!
Guest review contributed by Bookish Babbles. This blogger is a self-proclaimed bibliophile and has been blogging since the 5th grade. In her bio she has recently quit quitting.