All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?
Holly Bourne has done it again! I really enjoyed her novel, ‘The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’ as you may be able to gather from my review of it, here. But I have to say, ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ is just as good, if not better. This story has so many great aspects, I’m going to have to either break it down or just babble. So if this does turn into incoherent babbling and cheering, don’t judge me.
There are just so many great things. Holly Bourne addresses issues such as mental health, and feminism – which are two things we don’t see enough of in books. On the mental health part, I feel like you can really relate to Evie, who suffers from OCD. You can tell from the get-go that Holly Bourne has definitely done her research. There were so many points where I had to stop and just let everything sink in. I think it’s safe to say that OCD (and basically every other type of mental health problem) is downplayed a lot in our society – a lot of people, including myself, misuse it quite a lot. ‘Oh my God, I don’t like it when my room/desk is messy, I’m so OCD.’ I feel like this isn’t down to a lack of compassion, but a lack of understanding. This book was so insightful, I hadn’t realised before how serious of a condition/burden OCD could be – how it could completely control someone’s life, like it does to Evie. ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ also sheds some light on how sometimes we even make those who suffer from mental illness feel… unreasonable. Evie is tormented throughout the book by these thoughts that keep telling her she isn’t clean enough or that she has to complete a certain ‘ritual’ before things can turn out okay. For example, when she is getting ready to go out with her friends:
If I just run my finger around the whole rim of Jane’s mirror, tonight will go well.
And when her friend asks to use the mirror before she can complete this ritual:
You’ve ruined it, tonight is ruined now. Everything is going to go wrong.
And you can almost sense how desperate she is to complete it – and she does, when no-one is looking:
With Jane’s head still inside fabric, I saw my chance, jumped across the room and quickly trailed my hand over the circumference of the mirror. My stomach melted in relief and I savoured it for a second.. before it knotted up again almost instantly.
Because no matter how many times she completes a ritual, the thoughts don’t stop. They keep coming. Not to mention, as her state deteriorates, she can’t even bear to touch/be near her friends. It makes you realise that this is something that the person cannot turn off, that it’s always present. Always. And Evie points out a number of times that she knows it’s illogical – that you can’t get ill from a few crumbs on the floor, or by missing a shower in the morning. But knowing this doesn’t help,
‘Am I Normal Yet?’ also addresses a lot of feminist issues. The three friends form a group and call themselves ‘spinsters’, in an act of ‘reclaiming the word’. They point out so many things that are wrong with gender roles – that there are gender specific insults only for women e.g. slut, whore, spinster. I think feminism/gender inequality is another topic that is often neglected in novels, especially a large portion of YA novels where the solution is often ‘falling in love’, and Holly Bourne did a fantastic job incorporating this into her new book. The characters were all interesting and complex – Evie, Lottie, and Amber, are badass, strong, female characters that I really enjoyed reading about. Holly Bourne’s writing is gripping yet light, and very enjoyable – her writing sucks you into her world and makes you care. (I cried at least twice reading this).
A word that perfectly encompasses this book is ‘thought-provoking’ – by challenging stigma and addressing topics that are sometimes avoided and brushed under the carpet, it really makes you think. We need more books like this!