Book Review: Normal People

Maryanne is loser. She has no friends but seems to know herself, her intelligence, and her place. Connell, on the other hand, is quite popular…though he doesn’t quite know himself (or what he wants) the way Maryanne does. It seems obvious that Maryanne would be attracted to Connell (like it or not, we always want the coolest guy at school) but less so that he would be interested in her. Perhaps it’s curiosity that draws Connell to Maryanne. Or maybe it’s the ease of it all. Whatever the reason, they are practically bewitched by each other. But since it’s high school they keep it a secret because social status is everything in high school. Sigh. It’s a secret that tears at them both. They want each other but never embrace the relationship fully and publicly – a pattern that plays on repeat as they go to college together and the tables turn to reveal Maryanne as the popular one and Connell as a loner.

Also at play are the class distinctions. Maryanne is wealthy but Connell is not. In fact, his mother cleans Maryanne’s home. Distinction as a whole is a theme here. Distinguishing love from friendship, pleasure from pain, worth from inadequacy, and care from apathy. Throughout the novel, Maryanne and Connell choose to see one of these things over the other – and each time those choices shift the dynamic of their relationship in a major way.

This kind of reminded me of One Day…but better. It’s so interesting to see how two people view the same moments of the same relationship. It’s also interesting to see the diverging personalities of two adolescents who both come from single mother households. It’s beautiful and somewhat sad, but in a good way. The way all first loves are. It’s also a very quick read – knock this puppy out in 1-2 sittings.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Pair with: Warm red table wine