Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet?
by Holly Bourne

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?

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: The Spinster Club #1
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd.
Publication date:  August 1, 2015
Source/Format: I borrowed my sister's finished paperback copy.
Purchase links: Amazon | WHSmith |  Waterstones | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts:
One of the greatest things a book can do is to influence your way of thinking to stand up for something. We read mostly just to be entertained but once in a while, you stumble across that one book that not only amuses you but also opens your eyes to the wrongs of this world and compels you to somehow help to make it right. This happened to me unexpectedly after reading Am I Normal Yet? (AINY)

AINY is about Evie’s quest for a normal sixteen year-old life while recovering from OCD and general anxiety. In her recovery diary, she wrote a list of things she considers “normal at 16” like getting herself a boyfriend, making new friends and getting invited to parties and gigs. One by one, stuff got ticked off from her list but at the cost of slowly losing herself in the “normality” of things.

"There’s so much crazy stuff in the world – everything’s a mess most of the time – but people who can’t handle it are called mental and have films made about them...But what if they’re just reacting to the weirdness of the universe? Isn’t it more weird to just think everything’s okay, when it clearly isn’t?"
What charmed me initially is Evie’s beautiful mind. She compartmentalizes her thoughts to categories like good or bad or logical or not. She explains things from how she chose a certain outfit (I found this funny) to how people nowadays still don’t get mental health problems (I found this one truly INTENSE). Sometimes, she even does bullet lists and flowcharts to make her point. Clever girl.

Then enter Evie’s newfound friendship with Amber and Lottie. They go on coffee and breakfast dates, discuss boy troubles and stuff, and most importantly founded The Spinster Club. AHHH, THE SPINSTERS CLUB! I WANT IN, WHERE DO I SIGN UP?! Forgive me if I will go on gushing lengthily about this awesome, awesome feminist squad. So halfway across the book, one of the girls got fed up with how unfairly her love interest treated her. The other two girls, being the good friends that they are, comforted her with chocolate and calming words. And suddenly their conversation dived deep with how horribly women are measured up on their worth on how they are liked by men. They started to question why there are offensive words thrown at girls like ‘slut’, ‘psycho girlfriend’ or ‘spinster’. There and then, they decided to reclaim the word ‘spinster’ and turn it into something other than lonely and bitter. Thus, born The Spinsters Club!

"We can reinvent the word ‘spinster’, make it the complete opposite of what it means? Like ‘young’ and ‘independent’ and strong?"
Soon enough, membership cards with cute cat designs are dished out (gimme, gimme!), club meetings with feminist agenda and cheesy snacks are held and feminist complaint letters to proper authorities are sent. I love how because of their support for each other, they have found strong opinions against gender inequality and started acting on it, albeit in small ways. But of course, there will STILL always be random talks about boys. #friendshipgoals

Put yo fists up high if The Spinsters Club is also your kind of thing.        Photo: Disney

Speaking of boys, Evie had more than one love interest in this book. It’s pure genius how all these love interests are given their sweet moments to shine with our heroine. And there are parts with well-executed tensions of love triangles, too. While reading, I can feel myself as Evie falling for these guys, finding their faults and being disappointed, only to get reeled back in the wild roller-coaster ride called being young and all-searchy for romantic love.

Oh, one last thing. You know that somewhat awful trope in YA books where family is totally discarded out of the picture? There is gladly none of that here. We find Amber bickering with her younger brother, we have Evie’s parents being all-controlling then slowly mellow down into more-understanding and there’s an abundant display of sibling love between Evie and her younger sis, Rose. TBH, sister stories always get me (because I love my sister dearly; she lends me books!) so I may or may not have shed tears on those tender Evie-Rose moments.

This book is a witty mesh of narrative tackling themes of mental health, friendship, teen romance, family and feminism. As for me, I love especially how it amusingly introduced me to the world of feminism. It’s actually the first time that I learned about things like Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Bechdel Test, and Madonna-Whore Complex. Before I read this book, I personally did not feel extremely discriminated as a woman. Now that my eyes are peeled open, I see these tiny things where there is in fact gender inequality. UGH, don’t let me start with how I found some product in the grocery with a variant targeted for women having a higher price tag with the variant targeted for men! Or don’t let me talk about how I wrote an e-mail to that product’s Customer Care and slightly schooled them about feminism!!! AND YES, I’M ALSO STARING AT YOU MEN WHO FIND JOY IN CATCALLING and OBJECTIFYING RANDOM WOMEN! More important than these tiny things however are those big things going on in other places like banning of education or private parts mutilation just because they are girls. These atrocious big things are maybe hard to tear down instantly as they are ingrained in their belief system for a long time but I think we can help in chipping it away by first being aware that gender inequality is not a myth and then start campaigning against it. In that light, I think AM I NORMAL YET? is an excellent book for feminist beginners like me. It’s a book that delivers awareness about gender inequality and it’s also a campaign call for us to be Spinsters Club members ourselves. I hope more girls AND boys (‘coz remember Emma Watson’s rousing UN speech #HeForShe) will read this one.
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