OK, so this book was completely not what I expected it to be.
From the title, cover, tag line (“It’s tough being a girl”), and the checklist on the back (college, parties, friends who don’t dump you, a boyfriend), I had categorised it as a light, girly contemporary. Its description in my Summer TBR was a “hilarious light summer read”. Clearly I hadn’t read the blurb with any kind of accuracy. I think this comes of having had such a strong recommendation from a trusted friend – I knew I definitely wanted to read it, so I hadn’t spend much time researching what it was actually about!
Anyway, to correct my previous misconceptions, Am I Normal Yet is about a girl called Evie, who suffers from severe OCD and general anxiety disorder. After a long period of recovery, she has returned to college, where she’s faced with all the normal college-y things, and has to deal with them on top of her illness.
The book was written from Evie’s point of view, and it was very eye-opening to get inside her head. Holly Bourne did a lot of research for this book, talking to psychiatrists and people suffering from OCD, and I think she did a great job. The first person narrative combined with the anxiety-ridden inner monologue really got under my skin, and made me better understand what Evie was going through, giving me a real sense of paranoia and lack of control.
Another interesting aspect was Evie’s perspectives on mental illness, from how she thinks people perceive her, to her family’s reactions, how society’s view of them has changed, and the way people use the names of mental illnesses flippantly in conversations.
Despite its heavy subject matter, this book was still actually pretty funny at times. Some of the characters were hilarious (I loved Amber especially).
I thought the discussions on feminism were absolutely fantastic. The three best friends, trying to reclaim the word “spinster” set up the Spinster Club. During meetings they discuss a range of issues, from periods, friendships, dating, and mental illness. They brought up topics such as the “Madonna-whore complex”, and “Manic pixie dream girls”. I’ve never seen this kind of discussion in a YA book before, and I think these are such important ideas for teenagers to learn about.
Another feminism thing I really enjoyed was the Bechdel test, which I’d never heard of before. Basically, a book/film passes the test if it contains one conversation between two women, that isn’t just about men. A surprising number of films don’t pass!
Despite this educational element, this aspect of the book remains funny and light hearted, and isn’t at all preachy.
Overall, I was very impressed with this book and how much important stuff it managed to fit in. Its discussions of feminism, mental illness, family, friendships, and relationships, in such an entertaining yet informative way, make this book a thoroughly deserving recipient of the YA book prize.