Book Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Friday 12 February 2016

Am I Normal Yet?
Holly Bourne
Genre(s):  Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Published: August 1st 2015
Pages: 434
Rating: stars

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?

As a sufferer of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) myself, I could instantly connect with Evie as a character, and even found some of my own thoughts and insecurities running through her narrative. I liked the inclusion of the 'bad thoughts' and felt that it was very authentic, because that's exactly what they are. They're silly little things that burrow into the tightest corners of your mind and swell, turning into storm clouds or parasites. They grow and grow with the attention you give them until it feels like your head will burst from the pressure and you just have to find a way to relieve it.

I liked Evie as a character. I thought there had been a lot of research put into her and her disorders, and it didn't read as what I call Typically Mentally Ill: when a person with no experience of mental health tries their hand at writing about mental health and fails miserably. I liked the balance between her personality and her disorders; it didn't feel like she was given them just to be 'quirky' but it didn't feel overly dramatic and as if they were the only side to her.

I also loved how passionate she was about mental health and how she didn't sugar coat things. She was frank about mental illnesses making a person selfish, she mentioned how anxiety disorders can make a person manipulative, and she wasn't shy about how people pretend to understand yet disappear at the first sign of outward symptoms. It was a really refreshing point of view to read from.

However, I took a big issue with the title. I didn't like how the word normal was used, and how there was a check list for it. There were a few times - like in the recovery diary - where I felt more like Evie was joking with herself and using a bit of black humour when she used the term normal, but they were fleeting in the scheme of things. Just because you have a mental illness does not, in any way, shape or form, make you abnormal. Yes, it may feel like it at times (I can attest to that) but it is not true. To me, using 'normal' to refer to non-mentally ill people felt like a slap in the face. For the most part I liked this book but I just could not over look that.

I could have done with the feminism being toned down a bit and done in a more subtle way. As it stands, it was glaringly obvious (which isn't a bad thing!). To me, that made it feel like it was being done because it's the 'popular' thing to do, not because it was genuine. That being said, I do think Bourne managed to get across some very important messages, like how feminism is about equality, not 'women are better than men'.

All in all, I liked this. Definitely give it a shot if you're interested in mental health. It's raw and it doesn't shy away from real problems like relapse.


  1. This book was a five for me... After struggling with anxiety and depression myself and also being a feminist, this book was like reading an autobiography! I think Bourne brings a fresh voice to the YA MH genre.

    Brilliant review and I loved how you picked out the title including 'normal'. When I first saw it, that felt a bit strange to me too...


    1. I think if I hadn't had such a problem with the title and aggressive feminism it would've been a five for me, too. I just could have done with it being handled in a quieter way, but then I was already aware of feminist issues going into this - for some who isn't, I think it could work wonders.

      Yeah, I get the title is a bit of a joke, but coming from a non-mentally ill person it's a risky move.


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