Monday, 25 January 2016

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne had me laughing, crying, relating and clutching the book to my heart

Am I Normal Yet? (Normal, #1)Title: Am I Normal Yet?
Series: Normal #1
Author: Holly Bourne
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: August 1st 2015, Usborne Publishing
Pages: 434 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Usborne Publishing for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
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 was hard for me to read. And that what makes it so brilliant. Holly Bourne takes the somewhat prohibited subject of mental health and reveals it to us in its messy, flawed, heart-breaking existence in an eye-opening, harrowing account of a girl's battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

I loved this book. So much. I was basically a squealing, flailing, sobbing mess with a happy heart but tears dancing across my cheeks due to one of the most beautiful YA literary experiences I've had in a while. Even now a day later, my feelings for this book haven't dimmed in the slightest - in fact, they've grown. I literally can't stop thinking about this book, about the characters, the writing and the truth it speaks. I'm in love with Am I Normal Yet? and I'm sure you will be too.

I think I'll begin with how much I adore the characters. My own anxiety hasn't been that great lately and especially at the time of writing this review and it makes me so badly wish that I could call up Evie (and Oli who is basically me) and speak to them as well Amber and Lottie who I would love to have a friendship with. The characters feel so real and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

I loved Evie. She was so relatable and so honest with us about her struggle. She felt like a breathing, existing person - every character did! It feels like they're out there, living in the real world and to say anything else would be sacrilege. I loved Evie, she was funny, she was thoughtful, she tried to get better, she tried hiding her illness not only so she could continue trying to live society's idea of normal to protect herself from the hatred of the world and the disappointment of those close to her. I also thought Holly Bourne tackled the thoughts people with mental illness are bombarded with superbly well. The bitterness and the self-loathing and the desire to be "normal"whilst then further discussing the topic of what is normal anyway? 

Evie's also slightly naive which is understandable as she hasn't been on the social scene for three years. She was mistreated and left feeling helpless and foolish several times due to dating and I felt so sorry for her but I liked that that too was realistic. I liked that Holly Bourne showed dating in it's awkward and often disappointing glory. YA books tend to have unrealistic dating scenarios and I loved how this book showed that dating isn't always picture perfect and, especially when you're sixteen, it can be disappointing, it can be awkward and it make things worse instead of better. I felt like I was learning along with Evie and drinking up life lessons with her. This book taught me so much about life, love and anxiety and I can't thank Holly Bourne enough for giving me this opportunity to be enlightened about so many important areas.

I loved Evie's friends Amber and Lottie! I loved Amber and how passionate she was about feminism. She's strong-willed and determined but she's also vulnerable and self-conscious and I liked how the author balanced those qualities out. I really liked Lottie too. She was intelligent and she knew it and didn't allow herself to dumb herself down for guys like many people do.

I adored Evie's little sister, Rose. She was so supportive and wise and I loved her! I also liked how Bourne showed that Rose also had problems to deal with and that everyone, no matter how fine and lovely they may appear, is dealing with something.

Then there were the three love interests scattered throughout the book (don't worry, there wasn't a love triangle/square thing). Guy was a total jerk and I thought maybe he had some redeeming qualities after the party where he helped Evie but I don't think he could ever fully redeem himself due to his weed/smoking habit. I never liked him though and my dislike for him just grew throughout the book. Ethan…I laugh just thinking about him. He was a character, that's for sure. Oli! I LOVE OLI. I want a book from Oli's perspective so badly as I've had agoraphobia and I've had to stop going to school because of my panic attacks and like Oli, I've had my parents nearby if I go to the movies etc. I really hope Oli features in the sequels because I love his adorableness so much.

Another aspect of AINT that I adored was the strong female friendship. I have a friendship like that but my friends are in South Africa and it's one of the things I miss the most about home. Evie, Amber and Lottie are really there for each other, always uplifting, supporting and empowering each other even if one engages in activities that they don't agree with. I loved how this book showed the meaning of true friendship - of accepting and loving someone despite their flaws. I also love how it showed that relationships can be fickle and fleeting but a sturdy friendship can withstand the tests of time. I loved how it showed that if someone accepts you completely despite the panic attacks and the irrational fears they're someone worth fighting for.

The plot was great too. I flew through the book (when I wasn't taking a minute to remind myself that I wasn't Evie because it literally felt like we, the reader, are submerged in Evie's thoughts) and it was an addictive read. I appreciated the honesty in which it showed the tiring, pointless fight between logic and irrationality and the treacherous climb it takes to reach the cusp of "normality". The cusp of full recovery and the quickening downward spiral as you lose your footing, falling to the bottom of the mountain and have to repeat the slow, exhausting climb once again to reach the person you used to be - but this time you're weighed down by the baggage of doubt and crippling fear that you won't be able to stitch your fragmented self back together again. This struggle was depicted with such heart-rendering candor it quite frankly had me sobbing because Holly made me understand, she made me live Evie's struggle and it was jarring but I'm so thankful for that. That she provided me with the unflinching truth that will help me understand the world and it's people slightly more.

I also appreciated that Holly Bourne didn't romanticize mental health. Nothing could heal Evie miraculously and Holly made it quite clear in the book that Evie would have to keep working at it. The recovery process was so genuine that I...I don't actually have words it was just utterly PERFECT. It highlights the fact that it's a constant effort to get better and then you will have a relapse along the way, it's inevitable, and then you'll have to keep working at it to get back to where you used to be. It's frustrating and it's exhausting and Holly emphasized that truth.

So many books write a romance that fixes the protagonist's problems and I may have screamed with joy that this book didn't have that. Sure, I adore a love story that fixes all of life's problems and where the couple ride off into the sunset on a white horse and live happily ever after as much as the next girl, but as much as we want that to happen, it doesn't. This book shows that not all guys are going to be Augustus Waters or Tobias or Will Herondale, they're not going to whisper poetry into your ear when you're crying, or be by your side day and night, or profess their love for you under a moonlit sky. Sometimes the guys want to take advantage of you, a lot of the time they smoke, drink, sleep around and do drugs and a lot of time they won't be as supportive as you would like if you say you have a mental illness. I mean, of course that's not always the case, but generally speaking. This book portrayed relationships honestly and showed how they can muddy the waters and complicate things instead of making things better and I applaud that.

The writing was excellent too! I love how it's a running commentary on Evie's thoughts. You're basically in her head and that is quite a terrifying and uncomfortable place to be but that just once again proves Holly's extraordinary talent to expose the blatant truth of how catastrophic it is to live with a mental illness. It was excellent.

Am I Normal Yet? was an extraordinary novel that left me reeling. It was a harrowing, hopeful account of one girl's struggle with a mental illness and her determination to overcome it. I haven't felt this much reading a book in awhile, it tore at my heart and freed the tears that threatened to spill...but it also attached wings to my heart and made it soar as the undercurrent of hope and strength grew as I turned the pages. Holly Bourne wrote this book with such honesty. So many sentiments Am I Normal Yet? held were thoughts that had echoed mine before and that just proves how brilliant this book is. If you want a book that will make you understand the world, understand yourself and leave you mind-blown, read this.Truly a stellar read.

I give it: 5/5 cupcakes!



- Force feeding/hospitalization/rituals such as washing hands, brushing teeth until mouth bleeds etc

- "F" word using throughout
- Scenes of underage drinking and secondary characters smoking weed
- An almost sex scene

“Because now people use the phrase OCD to describe minor personality quirks. "Oooh, I like my pens in a line, I'm so OCD."NO YOU'RE FUCKING NOT."Oh my God, I was so nervous about that presentation, I literally had a panic attack."NO YOU FUCKING DIDN'T."I'm so hormonal today. I just feel totally bipolar."SHUT UP, YOU IGNORANT BUMFACE.”
“Do you ever wonder,” he asked, “how we decide what’s mad and what isn’t? There’s so much crazy stuff in the world – everything’s a mess most of the time – but then people who can’t handle it are called mental and have films made about them… But what if they’re just reacting to the weirdness of the universe? Isn’t it more weird to just think everything’s okay, when it clearly isn’t?”  

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