Am I Normal Yet, Holly Bourne

am-i-normal

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?

This book is great…. But it also pissed me off to no end. (I actually started writing this review while on page 249, because so many thoughts, and then updated it all the way throughout the second half of the book)

Because here’s the thing- It is wonderful. It talks about mental illness, it is honest, and at times, brutal. It talks about a lot of things most other books ignore (more on that later) and it attempts to be highly feminist. But that feminism only accounts for… well, straight, white cis girls.

I want to be able to shove this book in the hands of teenage girls, because it could have taught them so much, but I really don’t think I can. I kinda want to make sure teenagers avoid this book, because there are other books that teach about mental illness now, and other books that are trying with feminism and being far, far more inclusive.

Main Character Evie has OCD and anxiety. Goes to see a therapist once a week, is cutting down on her meds and trying to survive in college, between making new friends and flirting with boys.

While I didn’t particularly like Evie, I could relate to her. I loved how honest it all was about her anxiety. It pulled no punches, from her constant questioning of everything that happened, to the fear of what would happen with every ‘what if’.
Only pages in, she talked about the way mental illnesses were seen as jokes, and as every day things (such like ‘oh yeah I’m so OCD’ when you’re not) And I loved that- especially when it mentioned panic attacks. Because its true- people speak so lightly about these things, because they don’t understand. Trust me, when you have panic attacks, you do not speak lightly of them.

I also liked that in the first 240 pages, Evie has a date with two people, and starts to like a first. Because everything goes wrong with each (though Oli… she handled that awfully and I wanted to scream at her), and it’s rare, in YA books, to see someone even date more than one person. But in real life, teenage dating is messy. (all dating is messy, who am I kidding)

Though I, like Evie’s friends, still doesn’t understand what she saw in Guy.

I did like that it was trying to raise awareness of feminism and stuff. But at the same time…

Okay, lets talk about negatives

I feel like the feminism was almost a checklist in this book? Like, it ticked all those ‘buzzword’ comments. Mentioned the Bechdel test. Had pages of rants from the main characters (strangely, most were based around Not Needing a Guy… which isnt feminist, people.) Had the side character who Changed For A Boy, who was then criticised the whole time about it.

Added to the above side character, the three main girls are very… 2D as well. Like, theres only one thing that really makes each of them different. Evie has OCD. Amber just spends the entire time complaining about her brother, and Lottie… I have no idea. The three mains mess together until they cannot be told apart, because all three seem to have just been made so they can have page long rants where you cannot tell who is actually talking.

Okay, so, people. Feminism… its about equality, right. Like not taxing women’s products because they are for women (that was mentioned too). But it’s also about girls looking out for girls. It’s about knowing that everyone is allowed to be themselves and be cool with that- yes, not having a boyfriend may make one woman feel happy and good but that doesnt make a woman who does one one any less.  

And the lessons this book teaches about that is terrible. 

I mean, yay, this book has a female friendship that doesnt revolve around boys. Great. We need more of them. But those same girls put each other down, and other girls down just because they can (‘isn’t film studies for stupid people’ they say, in front of the girl studying films)

Talking of the main three of the book- whenever they talk about anything other than

And then, then we get to the real problem of the ‘feminism’ in this book.

Here, have a quote from the book, talking about periods:

“Because all women have them? I guess that’s what makes us girls?”

She beamed at me. “Yes! Exactly right.”

“Do I get a sticker?”

“Shut up. No. As you said, periods are what make us girls.”

No, no, no. Let me correct that. Having a period makes you a person with a vagina. Not a girl.

This form of feminism is so wrong, and makes me more angry than anything else in this book. People, its 2017. I think we are well past this form of thought. And for this to be in a book for 14+… it makes my skin crawl to think that this is the kind of thing that is being taught.

It’s so transphobic- and it completely erases anyone who is trans from being seen as the gender they are.

And that’s not even the only thing- two or three times (and bare in mind I am only half way through) there are throw away jokes about being a lesbian. People, being a lesbian, being gay, being trans, ect, it’s not a fucking joke. Okay. It’s harmful, and frankly, I’m shocked that for an author who spent so much time making sure to show that mental illness wasn’t a joke would go and act like being LGBT+ is.

So…. after all this, I thought, maybe I should read the rest to see if it improves. Mistakes. I should really know by now, if I get this angry half way through a book, the second half is going to be just as bad.

Once again, I love the way mental illness is portrayed. Evie doesn’t magically meet a guy and get better. Suddenly find herself ‘cured’ (which  happens in many more books than I wish to say). Nope. Her recovery is up and down- and no boy ‘fixes’ her.

But…. Once again, the three friends have got together to once more, talk about feminism and crap. And from what I’m working out from their conversation, you can only be feminist if you never date, never like boys, never admit to liking girly things, or…. anything really.

It’s just… I’m honestly too tired to talk about anything else for this book, I really am. Bourne’s first book- Soulmates- I loved it, because the premise was so different and kinda entertaining (I mean, really, being near your soulmate causes the world to basically end, thats amazing) but this one… I’m just angry.

This book- I would have given it five stars, if she had taken out all the fake feminism stuff, and just talked about OCD, mental illness and trying to find out what ‘normal’ really is (hint, people, none of us are normal) Because that book would have been brilliant.

But because of how angry the rest of it made me, because this book essentially boils down to ‘The Straight White Cis Girls Guide to Bad Feminism’, this book is getting no where near that.

So if you do want to read a book about mental illness, I can recommend you a whole load of other good ones. But this one, the good just isn’t worth the bad.

two-stars

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