Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd on August 1st 2015
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
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?
I don’t really remember when I first spotted Am I normal yet? but the series has been on my radar for a long time now. I have to admit, the cover for the second book in the series, How Hard Can love be? definitely put me off a bit. I don’t read a lot of contemporary – although actually, every time I say this I realise I read more than I thought I did (nearly 10% of my read so far this year!). It’s definitely not a favourite genre though, and I’m pretty picky about what I pick up, and How Hard Can love be? made me think of a very light, very romance-heavy teen drama, which isn’t really my favourite thing, so I kept putting it off. I then ended up with a proof of What’s a Girl Gotta Do which I couldn’t resist starting and ending up loving (review to come!). Having been suitably impressed, this year I’m finally getting around to going back and reading the earlier books in the series.
This book left me with a lot of feelings. Evie’s story hooked me pretty much straight away, and I finished Am I Normal Yet? the same day I picked it up, which is a pretty good indicator of how much I enjoyed it. I found Evie immensely likable, and believable. Although I couldn’t really see what she liked about Guy, I did find her feelings believable, and I liked how it wasn’t the standard ‘girl falls in love with first boy she dates and then they all lived happily ever after’. It was very refreshing to see a story – particularly a teen story – with more interesting and complicated relationships than either a) just one love interest where everything works out perfectly, or b) a brief paragraph at the beginning that vaguely mentions having a past relationship before the ‘real’ love interest is introduced and then everything works out perfectly. I liked the messy, realistic, chaotic teen relationships in this a lot more! I also loved the way Evie’s OCD was portrayed and talked about – the recovery diary entries, the counselling sessions, the medication dosages, the Bad Thoughts (and Worse Thoughts), all really helped you to understand what Evie was thinking and feeling and how she was dealing – or in some cases not dealing – with things. I felt like Holly Bourne really nailed getting you into Evie’s head, because for me at least this was the kind of book that literally took you on an emotional rollercoaster, from giggles to tears and back with a whole lot of other emotions on the way. I did feel a little emotionally wrung-out afterwards!
While I loved Evie, the mental-health representation and the relationships, the book definitely wasn’t perfect. While I liked Amber and Lottie too, their incessant bitching about Jane did begin to grate after a while. I also occasionally felt like their feminism was a bit too forced, with Lottie just giving these big info-dumps, and with an ongoing underlying message of ‘you can’t be a feminist and still like boys’, which I didn’t enjoy. There were also a couple of comments that just didn’t quite sit right from where I’m sitting like “periods are what make us girls“. Not particularly inclusive…
Having said all that, while there were things I didn’t like, I ultimately did really enjoy the book, and it is one I’d happily read again, so it just about squeaks through to the four stars. Anna’s review where she says “Bourne told us about feminism, but she showed us about mental illness” is absolutely spot on I think. Ultimately it was Evie, her OCD and the way we go through the emotional wringer with her that I loved about this book, and while the feminism side was okay, it wasn’t on the same level, and ultimately weakened the book a little.