The Other Normals
by Ned Vizzini
Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin, so when his parents ship him off to summer camp Perry is sure he’s in for the worst summer of his life.
Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest together, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. (goodreads.com)
Release date: September 25, 2012
There are many things I need to say about this book that aren’t actually about the story. I’ll get to the story in a bit. First: I don’t know how to categorize the book! It’s fiction, with a fantasy world sort of tossed in, but it’s not Urban Fantasy and it’s not Fantasy-Fantasy and I wouldn’t call it Paranormal either. So what do I call it? Alternate Fantasy? I know this seems like a not so big deal, but it is. I HATE not being able to categorize something. The OCD in me is going CRAZY!
Second: I have renamed The Other Normals. In my head this book is called My Husband (as a Teen): The Book. I kid you not. I kept reading him parts of the first few chapters until he told me to stop reading the book. It was all lies. HAHAHAHA! I have a soft spot for RPG-playing geeky boys. I married one.
Third: I met (and discovered) Ned Vizzini at the Teen Author Carnival in May 2010. I’d never heard of him or of his novel, It’s Kind of a Funny Story before that event. After listening to him speak and finding out what the book was about (mental hospital!), I bought his book when I didn’t have enough money to get me through the week and had him sign it. I was that taken by both author and story summary. I then fell in love with the novel and because of that, Ned contacted me right before BEA this past year and asked if I’d be interested in reading his new novel. Of course I said yes.
Which brings me to the meat & bones of this post about The Other Normals. I loved this book. I loved this book because I can officially say that I love Ned Vizzini’s style of writing. I swear on everything in the world that I love that I am telling you the honest truth. I loved the narration and dialogue in this story. It took me no time at all to read from cover to cover and I realized as I was finished that the author has managed to make me love two books with teen male protagonists when I generally do not like male MCs. I can’t always relate to male protagonists, often I don’t even care about what they might be thinking. This isn’t the case this time around. Sure, it’s possible that my own brain was just picturing my husband at 15, but still.
I have no idea what it’s like for a male teen to go through puberty. The male species is a complete mystery to me – even today! I do know that when I was 15 I was way too shy and scared of boys to talk to them without blushing a million shades of red and just assuming they were going to pick on me and make me feel bad about myself. Such was my life as a teen. So this little glimpse into the male psyche was interesting. I felt sort of like I was reading some sort of anthropology book and getting more of a clue. Where was this book when I was 15? Geez. (Spoiler Alert: I wouldn’t have even picked this book up when I was 15 BECAUSE the MC was male. I’d have been all, “Ppfffft! BOY book! Boooooring!”)
So, Perry’s life is wrapped up in the game Creatures and Caverns and his parents (and their lawyers) think this is not healthy and they send him to a summer camp. He’s the only white boy at this camp (and I have to admit, I was curious as to WHY he was sent to this particular camp. It seemed rather odd to me?) and the one sort-of-friend he’d made playing C&C was also at this camp, though Sam wouldn’t talk to Perry when his other friends were around. (That is such a girl thing to do! Do boys do this, too??)
Perry discovers that the world in the latest C&C book is actually real and so the book bounces between real life (Earth) and the World of the Other Normals. Everyone there has a correspondent person on earth. What happens to one correspondent in one realm, happens to the other in the other. (I’m horrible at explaining this, sorry.) What ensues is a whole lotta personal growth (both literally AND figuratively) in Perry’s life, but it all seems to happen in the space of 2 days? The amount of action that takes place in a small amount of time seemed strange to me, but I let it slide because I was thoroughly enjoying reading the dialogue.
There were many instances I was proud of the decisions that Perry made, which I won’t spoil for you all – but there’s a moment near the end that surprised me. I guess his honour is more than 50. There were also instances when I thought “WTF? How did he get that much confidence so quickly? Seems like an abrupt personality change in such a short time?” Either way, I loved Perry. I am totally Team Perry and he was such an endearing character in my eyes. I hope he grows up to be a handsome, funny, still geeky man who shaves his head and falls in love with a short, yet adorable, purple-haired girl and they get married and live happily ever-after.
So, after reading two Ned Vizzini books and loving them, I am determined to read the rest of the books he’s put out. There are two from the early 2000s (and it pains me more than you know that one can now say “the early 2000s”. I miss the 90s.) that I must get my hands on. I will also always pick up any new books this man puts out because his writing style is just my cup of tea. And I LOVE tea. So, yeah.
AND as a special bonus, I asked Ned if there was any sort of special tidbit about this book that he could tell me so I could include it in my post and he sent me this:
The Other Normals started in spring 2009 as a realistic drama set in summer camp. The idea was to have the main character, Perry, go to a camp where he felt out of place but meet a girl and have this doomed romance (because at the end of summer camp, you go home). I thought Perry’s love could be named “Summer” and the book could be called Camp Summer. But as I was writing, all of sudden I got this VISION of a character who had red skin and yellow hair and who smoked pebbles in the woods. That was Mortin Enaw. Once he appeared I couldn’t resist him and I took the book in a different direction.
Although I would totally have read the book either way, I’m sort of happy that the world of the Other Normals became a part of this story. It adds an element of adventure to the book that I enjoyed. (Oooo! Maybe I can start a new category called “Adventure”? I still don’t know how to classify this book. ARGH!)
So, thank you Ned (via HarperTeen) for sending me this novel and I hope many of you pick it up and read it. And if you know any teen boys who are into Dungeons & Dragons and like to read, I’d slip them a copy of this book and tell them to have fun.