Antonia has signed up for additional peer counselling sessions – but she’s the normal one! Her peer, Jazz, seems to be anything but normal – piercings, weird clothes and tattoos. Somehow they have to begin to get along and work through the complex problems both bring to the conference table.
Antonia is a believable character. She’s unique in her own way, and not similar to any of Peter’s other characters. She has been managing virtually by herself with her two younger brothers for a long time, and yet she has to worry about getting into college and now trying to get a peer counselling session going with Jazz who doesn’t seem to be even vaguely interested in the idea.
Jazz seems a little overblown as a character – but then again, that is the type of person she is. I presumed she was the same age as Antonia, and so I find it hard to believe a 14 year old has tattoos or so much freedom. Maybe the rules are different in the USA where this book is written? Don’t let it put you off though – whether you’ve been the ‘punk’ that Jazz is, or you’ve noticed one in your classes, you’ll be able to relate.
Define ‘Normal’ doesn’t set out to define normal! But the characters certainly go through looking for normal, and finding the conventional descriptions of it lacking. It’s great to have a book that talks about problems, namely depression, that are usually pushed under the carpet.
The opening to this book is great, it will grab you, but not for the usual reasons. There are some twists in this book that you may or may not see coming. Every word counts, every word adds meaning to the story. I don’t think there are any throw away lines in the whole book. There are no extra descriptions, just pure good reading.
This book is a very quick read, I probably read it in less than 2 hours. That’s not to say it is an easy read in content terms – you will find it heart rending and probably uncomfortable to read in sections. There is no conclusive happily ever after, or even a traditional climax in my opinion, but it’s such good writing I didn’t care! And it certainly made the storyline ring true.
I’d recommend this book for teenagers and children. It raises some great discussion questions, and some important issues, such as adult depression and how children cope. As with all Peter’s other books, it contains a set of questions at the back for school English classes.