Normal People is anything but a clichéd romance novel
Book Review: Must Reads For Youth
Normal People by Sally Rooney (Ages 17+):
Sally Rooney’s critically acclaimed novel (and now, BBC television series), Normal People, is a heartfelt story about growing up and discovering one’s identity.
Set in Ireland, this book offers perspectives from two youths: Marianne and Connell. I received this book as a gift, and expected it to be just another cliché romance novel. However, I found that Normal People was anything but.
To my pleasant surprise, the relationship between the two main characters had an unexpected poignant complexity, and ventured into themes such as mental health and class, as well as the dynamics of friendship and romance over long periods of time – themes uncommon in many modern young adult works.
Beginning in high school, Marianne is a typical loner and Connell enjoys a shy popularity. One year later at Trinity College in Dublin, Marianne is the social butterfly and Connell is the wallflower. This social hierarchy is linked to economic hierarchies; their unlikely friendship emerges from Connell picking up his mum, Lorraine, from working as a cleaner at Marianne’s house.
This was a strong introduction to the theme of socioeconomic status and how it affects relationships. The class disparity is presented with sensitivity and depth, where Rooney delivers the thought-provoking idea that despite occasional tension, class disparity does not ruin relationships. Instead, Rooney uses Connell and Marianne’s differing economic privileges to show how some consider money as a burden that limits them, while others can afford to not think about money at all.
From the fictional town of Carricklea to Ireland’s top university, Normal People shows two Irish teenagers integrating into the wider world, and facing varying challenges when adapting. This theme can be considered relatable to many Bermudians who travel abroad for schooling, especially when experiencing culture shocks. As such, I recommend this novel to anyone looking for relatable stories that can ease anxieties about encountering startling unfamiliarities.
Personally, I found the structure of this emotional novel striking and refreshing. All chapters are determined by time frame, my favourite one being “5 Minutes Later”, where tensions and emotions are running high.
In essence, Normal People is a character-driven, magnetic, and affecting read. Rooney’s emotional style emphasises the romance between two love interests who always seem to be drawn back to each other in their search for meaning and self-growth.
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service