Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club #1), Holly Bourne

Being a woman, in this world, ultimately makes you crazy
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?

* * * *
4 / 5

I was tentative about reading Am I Normal Yet? because I'd recently read Under Rose-Tainted Skies, another book with a main character with OCD and a heavy romance focus, and hadn't really enjoyed it. Fortunately, I enjoyed Am I Normal Yet? a heck of a lot more. It's thoughtful and happy and very teen girl, but also serious and made me cry. 

"Can't I just never have bad thoughts? Can't they just go away forever?" And, for once, there was a bit of sympathy in her eyes. Because that wasn't going to happen.

Evelyn Crane is getting better. She meets her therapist once a week, finally cuts her worries list down to a single page, and is lowering her medication for OCD and anxiety. She's made two new friends, Lottie and Amber, who don't know her as "that girl that went crazy", and men are starting to find her attractive. She's losing her best friend Jane to her boyfriend Joel, who plays in a terrible heavy rock band, and goes on a string of terrible dates with Ethan, Oli, and Guy, whilst her therapist warns her about the complex difficulties that dating will bring to her life. 

As I said before - mental illness, we sure as hell know the words for it, but we still can't have sympathy with the actual behaviour

Evie is a great character. She's likeable and realistic and I just found myself rooting her on throughout the book; yeah, sometimes she makes stupid decisions, particularly about boys, but what sixteen year old girl hasn't made decisions she regrets? Getting way too drunk at a party? Most of us have been there. Fancying a boy you know is bad for you? Done it. Even when Evie irritated me, she felt like an actual person. The secondary characters are pretty good too. The main trio is Evie, Lottie, a super smart girl who's life mostly consists of boys and feminism, and Amber. Lottie is better developed than Amber, who's a bit plain, but I really enjoyed the way the friendship between the three was developed and how the girls all had their own flaws. 

I really enjoyed the style this book is written in, though it's very Young Adult which won't appeal to everyone. It's a very strong first person and you are completely inside Evie's head, which can get pretty intense at times. Then there's little headings like "Bad thought" that gives a more visual idea of what living with OCD is like. There's also lots of relevant feminist ideas woven throughout the book; mostly, this is well done but sometimes it does feel a little bit too rammed in your face. 

"Ethan. You're not a sex addict. You're just a sixteen-year-old boy."

Am I Normal Yet? tries to tackle a lot. There's dating, relationships, friendships, Evie's relationship with her family, particularly her sister, drugs, alcohol, feminism, all on top of Evie and her OCD, the main focus of the book. Whilst I admire Bourne for trying to address so much, it does make the book feel quite heavy and a bit confused sometimes, which is why this is not a five star read. I found I got a little bored in the middle when the focus was almost entirely on various romances. 

Overall, Am I Normal Yet? is a great look at a teenage girl navigating her life whilst living with OCD. It made me laugh and cry and laugh whilst crying. It's full of so many insightful comments about life, dating, and people's attitudes towards mental health. I'm definitely going to read the other books. 

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