4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
A Chance to be Normal, by Koywan Keyes, is a story of trying to overcome bullying. Koywan is a constant target of bullying. He wears "hand-me-down-down-downs" and never sticks up for himself. He rides the bus with Suzie, one of the meanest girls in the school. She makes it her mission to make fun of Koywan, and others, every day. With the help of his Grandma Lillian, best friend John, and cousin Regina, Koywan tries to figure out how to stop the bullying. Is Suzie being so cruel for a reason?
My favorite part of this book is the friendship between Koywan and John. John wasn't a victim of bullying. He mostly went unnoticed at school until Suzie decided they were dating. But, he never left Koywan's side when things got tough. For example, when Koywan was trying to win Suzie over with a candy bar, he panicked and said it was from John. This made Suzie think John liked her. Koywan offered to tell Suzie the truth, but John wouldn't let him. He yelled, "No! I do not want to bury a friend!" He was willing to help Koywan even if it made his life extremely miserable.
I also enjoyed Koywan's Grandma Lillian. She was tough but clearly loved Koywan. I was so happy he had support at home since school was so rough. She also was so kind to John, letting him stay for supper since his dad didn't cook, and watching out for him like he was her own. She also brought comic relief with her nicknames for everyone in the neighborhood and her love of candy.
The only thing I disliked about the book was how repetitive it was. Koywan got on the bus, went to his first and second classes, ate lunch with John, John had his third class, Koywan went to his fourth class, and then he was back on the bus. After school, the boys went to discuss their problems under the old pecan trees, bought candy, and made sure to check in with Grandma Lillian. The book followed this same pattern unless it was the weekend. I can't really fault the author for this, because the book is considered juvenile fiction. The organization provided by the repetition would make the book easy for younger readers to read.
A Chance to be Normal is written for a younger (probably middle school-aged) audience, but as an adult, I did enjoy it. The author intended for it to help ease the stress of being bullied and raise awareness about bullying. So kids who are being bullied might find solace reading it. It would be eye-opening for parents and educators, as well. On the flip side, I could see some parts of the book as being triggering for those who are being bullied or have been bullied in the past. I guess it would depend on the individual person, but it's something to take into consideration before deciding to read the book.
I would rate A Chance to be Normal four out of four stars. The book does what it sets out to do: bring awareness to bullying. It does this through likable characters, has a few surprising twists, and a satisfying ending. The repetition and very few random errors weren't enough to make me rate this book any lower.
I highly recommend A Chance to be Normal to anyone who wants to know what it's like to be bullied. The dedication of the book sums things up well:
"I dedicate this book to everyone who has ever been bullied or struggled to fit in. Be yourself. You are loved. You are special. You are somebody."
A Chance to be Normal
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon