Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini Review

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.
Bestselling author Ned Vizzini delivers a compulsively readable and     wildly original story about the winding and often hilarious path to manhood

I just don't even know where to start with a review of this novel. The characters, Perry, well he is so endearing in an adorkable way, you know boys like this even if you were a girl, you were like him, maybe still have moments like he did. You can't help but like him, he's just trying to become a man and has no idea how to do it. He's fifteen and hasn't hit puberty. He's into playing an RPG game that's not played on a computer. Yeah, more adorkable. He makes his own battle plans and characters but doesn't name them. He doesn't buy the expensive characters. He doesn't even have friends to play the game with. What? No other "nerds" to play this game with. Until he meets Sam in the comic book store. And buys a book about C&C called "The Other Normals". They play in the stairwell at Perry's school and plan campaigns and battles. Perry has one friend.

And then his alcoholic brother tells him, he's going to Summer Camp. Not Math Camp. Nope this is normal camp with regular kids. His parents have been divorcing for 8 years and are dating their respective divorce lawyers so the lawyers confirm this bit of doom and then his parents do, too. It's the worst news he can imagine. As they drive to the camp, there is a sign that all lawyers must get out there. So the divorce lawyers get out without questioning it. (Weird) Maybe if they compared the brochure to the camp they would sue. The lake on the brochure is beautiful, in reality, it's drained. And so it goes with the rest of the camp. Perry's RPG things are confiscated except for a small figure his mom gives him before she leaves. It looks amazingly like Perry and comes in handy when he gets in a fight immediately.

And then, Perry's life changes forever. He follows a creature that he created for C&C into the woods and travels to the world of "The Other Normals". The adventures that follow prove his mettle as a boy on his way to manhood and disprove everything he thought he knew about the universe. He meets Mortin Enaw, Ada, Gramary and Leidan all of whom change his life and he changes theirs. He is tasked with kissing Anna, a girl from the camp across the non existent lake and when they send him back to his side of the world he gives it an awkward try. An embarrassing, unplanned and completely inappropriate thing happens. He has to escape to "The Other Normals" to get away from his shame.

Through a few trips back and forth, the events in his world are changed as well in "The Other World" but Perry himself is changed. He's no longer this kid who is afraid to live in the real world that he has to escape into an RPG to live. He learns to trust himself, think, be brave.

It is a funny story with weirdness at every turn. It is a story about an awkward teen whose pick up line is to hold a fire extinguisher and say, "You need this because you're so hot." He thinks the three story comic book store is like a "nerd Mothership." This is the young inexperienced Perry.

This is Perry in the world of "The Other Normals", just taking things in stride, sorta. "No I'm not. I put down my spork. Everybody uses sporks in the world of the Other Normals." Funny little tidbits are thrown in that make you back up and say, wait what? And you go back and read it again. I so see my youngest son in Perry an I'm going to get a print copy of this for him so he can see that growing up isn't all terrible. It can be a fun adventure. That's what I got most from the story, that despite the awkward phases, you can still go on, no matter how embarrassing or hard it seems.

I definitely think there is room for another story though it's nicely wrapped up. I'd love to read another adventure, growing up story about Perry. It was amazingly well written, fast paced, humorous and fresh. No wasted words, it never got slow or dragged. Even at 400 pages it was a fast read.

I haven't done it justice with my review. I know that. Hopefully others will do a better job. This is an amazingly well written story about the awkwardness of being different in a world of "normal" and trying to fit in. It's about finding that fitting in isn't at all what it's cracked up to be and that being different, being who you are is just fine. But you have to find out who that really is, be honest with yourself about who you are. And you have to move forward. Ned Vizzini is so great at capturing awkward teen years. I hope he continues to write these stories, for the awkward teens, boys and girls, everywhere.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher Balzer and Bray for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

15 comments:

  1. Hm now I'm kind of sad I didn't request it on Edelweiss! And .. I mean I loved playing RPG's myself and this book sounds cute! Or shall I say adorable! Totally sounds like a fun book with some growing up issues!

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    1. Oh Danny, no romance really, but you would have loved it especially if you played RPG or were ever awkward.
      Never pass up Ned Vizzini! So easy to read and just knows what it's like.

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  2. "It is a story about an awkward teen whose pick up line is to hold a fire extinguisher and say, "You need this because you're so hot." "

    LOL! That's an incredibly funny, lame, and adorable pick up line I've heard in a very long time. I like how this book addresses the awkwardness of puberty and a character who doesn't know everything or have everything turn out well for him. The parents divorcing and dating their respective lawyers threw me a bit I have to admit otherwise it sounds pretty good. I wonder if this book would work better as a MG but I'm guessing the embarrassing scene might be more along the lines of PG-13.

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    1. No, YA, the way he thinks about sex alot and talks about puberty (being 15 and not having gone through it yet) some of his actions, makes it YA.

      I read a review at Maji Bookshelf that described the lawyers as surrogate parents. Which they have become and the parents communicate through them to their kids, rather than communicate to their ex spouses through their lawyers.

      Yeah that embarrassing scene is REALLY embarrassing!

      Heather

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  3. Awwww his pickup line was so awkward and cute and I think I love him a little Heather! Gotta love those adorkable heroes:) This sounds like such a fun book, and I have to say, I absolutely MUST know what this embarrassing and inappropriate thing that happened with Anna is. It's probably something far cleaner than my mind is currently imagining:) Fabulous review!!!!

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    1. Thank you! If you aren't going to read it, I'll email you the embarrassing moment. It was pretty bad. And all his fault! And yeah, you do have to love him.

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  4. aww!! this sounds hilarious! the nerdiness is awesome!

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    1. It is! Vizzini is great at awkwardness of teenagers.

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  5. Didn't do justice? Are you kidding? You had me at adorkable!! Seriously! This sounds like a lot of fun and with a lot of adorable-ness (is that a word?) and you have me so curious about it. :) This is a brilly review!

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    1. Thanks Melissa! I read some better reviews when I started, probably shouldn't have done that. They got the deeper meaning better than I did. But I just had to get across how adorkable he was and he just kept going and growing as a character. Yeah, I'll vote adorkable-ness as a word!

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  6. I think this sounds like a great book! One of my older brothers liked playing Dungeons and Dragons- so I think he might like this book, too. Perry sounds like a character we can all relate to in some way and I am sure we will all be rooting for him. Awesome review!
    ~Stephanie

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    1. I could relate to Perry on many levels. All my awkwardness when I was kid, even now when I feel awkward. Perry is definitely a character I can relate to!

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  7. I love the "nerd mothership" bit - sounds like a good read for the awkwardness in all of us.

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

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  8. This sounds like an interesting and unique book. I enjoyed your review and I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog today :)

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