I am a total sucker for a good coming of age story – some of my all time favorite books fall into this category (Fangirl, Ready Player One, and Anna and the French Kiss to name a few). When the April 2019 Book of the Month selections came out, it was an easy choice for me to pick up Normal People as my monthly choice. Unfortunately, this book turned out to be a total slog that I only finished because I hate to not finish books.
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
One big, glaring issue for me was the way that the author stylized this book. There were no quotation marks around any of the dialog. Have you ever stared at a wall of text and thought ‘hell no, where is the tl;dr’? That’s what reading this book felt like. It was very jarring to not have the quotation marks and it kept me from focusing on the story. Plot-wise, this book was incredibly boring. There were no major events, the book just slowly trudged through the incredibly boring lives of two very bland teens. Literally nothing happened. Not only was the story boring, it also had bizarre pacing – it would go into weird amounts of detail in some places, and then skim over other parts and completely time jump at random. It was inconsistent and impossible to get into. Also, the quality of writing overall was pretty sub-par. The dialog was very one note and unrealistic (and lacked flow) and the descriptions were just bland and bad.
Neither Marianne or Connell had any character definition. Both were very single note, and didn’t have many, if any, characteristics to speak of. We also really only got to see them interact with each other, and that didn’t give any definition to their character. Further, I could never really understand either character’s motivation. What drove them to make their choices? It’s impossible to really believe in a character or root for them when you can’t understand where they’re coming from when they make decisions. Also, once they both went to college, their popularity roles were completely reversed, which was never really addressed or justified. It’s little details like that that make me wonder how the hell this book made it to publication in the state that it is in.
Do yourself a massive favor and pass this book up. It’s as boring as watching paint dry, but at least watching paint dry you might feel something from the fumes. Lackluster in every regard, this book is not worth wasting any time on. If you’re looking for a fun coming of age story, give Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell a shot. 1/5