4 out of 4 stars
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Are you normal? What does being normal mean?
This is the theme of Emme Grange’s book, Needing Normal. The story follows 14-year-old Jett Harper who overhears her mother’s conversation on her first day of school and learns that she is not normal for a girl her age. To make matters worse, Jett has a rocky start at Presidio Prep, the best high school in the state, after she is asked to redo her first individual assignment. She is later assigned a group project with Core5, a diverse group of peers. Throughout her freshman year, Jett struggles to understand friendships, family dynamics, and love. Most importantly, she hopes to find the answer to the question that has been haunting her since her mother’s conversation – what is normal?
The author’s writing style perfectly captures the thoughts and behaviors of high school students in this book. Youthful slang is reflected in the characters’ dialogues. Text messages are typed in separate speech bubbles. These things make the book appealing to young readers. The members of Core5 face different challenges in their lives. I liked that not all of their problems were teenage issues; some were cultural and socioeconomic challenges. For instance, one member was from an immigrant Indian family, and he struggled to merge his Indian and American identities.
At first, it was difficult to understand Jett because she did not understand the basic social constructs of society. For example, someone once told her that they weren’t friends with her outside of the classroom. Jett could not understand why there were conditions and timelines for friendships. I felt a myriad of emotions while reading about Jett’s experiences. Jett normally made notes about social cues and tried to follow them. Although she was socially awkward, it was interesting to see how Jett navigated the world around her. It was heartbreaking to read about how difficult it was for Jett to understand love and whether she felt love for any of the people around her. Throughout the book, it was unclear whether Jett was diagnosed with a condition that could cause her to think and behave atypically compared to her peers. I liked that the author only hinted at this because it made Jett’s character more mysterious and kept my interest in the story.
One of this book’s best qualities is that it is relatable to teenagers. Jett seems like a typical teen girl; she has a unique sense of style and is not afraid to stand out despite her mother’s insistence that she needs to fit in. She is rebellious, empathetic, and caring. Her perseverance to be the best version of herself is admirable. However, her life is not without struggles. The diversity of the people in Core5 will relate to different types of teen personalities. Additionally, many teens who might be similar to Jett and her friends would be comforted to know that they are not alone.
There were no flaws in this book. It was formatted and edited exceptionally well without any errors. Needing Normal is made up of interesting, modern people and reflects the world we live in today. It is a progressive story about people and their struggles to fit in. It also encourages readers to see the world through the eyes of a teen. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. It is best suited for teens and young adults who enjoy contemporary drama stories.
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