Being A Well Adjusted and Confident Teenager Is Not The Norm in Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney

My Review:

Don’t miss Sally Rooney’s newest novel, Normal People.  This engaging page-turner is about two teenagers from Ireland but it is for everyone!  Connell is a smart, popular athlete with a working class single mother, and Marianne is an intelligent, oddball loner who lives in a mansion with her disfunction family, enduring their physical and mental abuse.  They two are intellectually well matched classmates yet socioeconomically incompatible and they steer clear of each other in high school.  Connell’s mom is the cleaning lady for Marianne’s family and when Connell picks his mom up from work the teenagers’ paths cross. Their attraction is powerful, they enjoy conversation, and they secretly spend time together, agreeing to keep it under wraps.

Their relationship is complicated in public. The kids at school would never understand or accept their being a couple, but when they are alone together they are drawn to each other.   “Most people go through their whole lives, Marianne thought, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.” Their feelings grow and the companionship brings them both some sense of normalcy and happiness, until Connell makes a bad decision that hurts her feelings and changes the course of their relationship.  This crucial choice pushes Marianne away, and so begins the rough road of ups and downs these complex Irish teenagers’ experience in this coming of age love story, Normal People.

Marianne struggles with self worth in high school, but in college she appears more confident and popular with many friends.  Connell ends up at the same school but is more reclusive, his security of high school having disappeared.   He truly loves her and tells her he will never let anything bad happen to her.  Their magnetism is mutual and undeniable, and even though they are not a traditional couple, they end up feeling understood and normal when they are alone together.  Unfortunately due to misunderstandings, they have fall outs over and over. They are both on the constant search for self worth and love, and they each have other relationships, but Marianne’s are not always healthy.

“There’s always been something inside her that men have wanted to dominate, and their desire for domination can look so much like attraction, even love.  In school the boys had tried to break her with cruelty and disregard, and in college men had tried to do it with sex and popularity, all with the same aim of subjugating some force in her personality.  It depressed her to think people were so predictable.  Whether she was respected or despised, it didn’t make much difference in the end.  Would every stage of her life continue to reveal itself as the same thing, again and again, the same remorseless contest for dominance?”

Connell and Marianne did not feel normal in their own skin, struggling with intellectual superiority along with insecurities and feelings of unworthiness.  They knew each other best, yet communication was often misinterpreted between them and their reactions based on what they thought was going on impacted the choices they both made along the way.

This coming of age love story deals with social and economic status, depression and dominance…very real and often sad and frustrating.  There were things I hoped Connell and Marianne would have said to each other and I desperately wanted a different ending, but even though they suffered the consequences of poor communication, we are left with the hope that these two young people will ultimately find themselves happy and together.  Sally Rooney’s writing is easy to read, direct and gives a clear picture of the complexities of  a teenage, fluctuating relationship over a four year period.  I loved Normal People and highly recommend it!

Goodreads Summary

Sally Rooney

About the Author:

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from Trinity College. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The White Review, The Stinging Fly, and the Winter Pages anthology.

Rooney completed her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, whilst still studying for her master’s degree in American literature.  She wrote 100,000 words of the book in three months.

Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, was published in September 2018 and it was long listed for the Man Booker Prize of that year.  On 27 November 2018 it won “Irish Novel of the Year” at the Irish Book Awards. Normal People won the Costa Book Award in January 2019 and has been long listed for the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize. In March 2019, Normal People was long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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My Review:

LOVED THIS BOOK! The Great Alone is an epic story of love of family and love of home –  full of emotion with picturesque descriptions of the beautiful and dangerous Alaskan landscape and the depiction of a non traditional way of life. Powerful and heartbreaking, author Kristin Hannah tells the story of passionate yet struggling husband and wife, Ernt and Cora, and teenage daughter Leni in 1974, showing the capacity for endurance, tolerance, strength, and dedication to family.

When Ernt returns home after being a POW in Vietnam, he is not the same happy husband and father he once was.  Angry and on edge, privately suffering, he is continually searching for freedom, a new and peaceful place to call home with his supportive wife and young daughter.  A perfect opportunity arises and he impulsively moves his small family to a remote village in Alaska.  With no running water or electricity, wild animals and harsh weather, this new way of life is focused on survival, and with some reservations but with dedication and devotion, 13 year old Leni and her mom, Cora are supportive and go all in.  With support from the small, neighborly Alaskan community, they learn to hunt and live off the land and adapt to the challenging lifestyle in hopes of having a happy family life.

When the endless Alaskan summer days turn dark and frigid, Ernt’s PTSD is triggered and his anger and violent behavior put Leni and Cora in grave danger.  Living in isolation, with secrets and fear, mother and daughter must be physically and mentally strong and make some life changing decisions before it is too late.   The hopes for fresh beginnings and endless love turn to misguided obsessions and uncontrollable domestic violence, causing a whirlwind of emotions and making this an exceptional book.

If you loved The Nightingale, where Kristin Hannah shows us the strength of brave women risking their lives for others in the French Resistance in World War II, you will love The Great Alone, fiercely independent women who fight to survive, risking their lives for the love of family, community and each other.  A story of resilience, nature and human nature, this is a must read!

If you would like to read an incredible, true story about a girl who grew up in the mountains, CLICK HERE.

The Great Alone Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.

Kristin’s highly anticipated new release, The Great Alone, was published on February 6, 2018 (St. Martin’s Press). The novel, an epic love story and intimate family drama set in Alaska in the turbulent 1970’s is a daring, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival and the wildness that lives in both nature and man. It has been listed as one of the most anticipated novels of the year by The Seattle Times, Bustle.com, PopSugar, Working Mother, Southern Living, and Goodreads.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with award-winning director Michelle MacLaren set to direct. Home Front was optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to write, produce, and direct. Movie news on The Great Alone is coming soon.

The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

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My Review:

Kick off your summer reading list with The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner, author of The Forever Summer, one of last year’s favorite beach reads. 

There is nothing like young love that has so much passion and hope for the future. In this powerful story of love and loss that takes place at the Jersey Shore, teenage Lauren commits her heart to high school ice hockey star Rory, and with stars in her eyes she expects a long life of togetherness and fun. The college years separate them by distance and they struggle to keep their connection.  Against all odds the two get married but Lauren’s plans to be together don’t work out the way she expected.  Rory heads to the NHL, is a star player, and then suffers a concussion.  His hockey career ends abruptly and he joins the military while Lauren is left behind trying to justify and come up with explanations for his questionable decisions and behaviors leading to his departure.   She is angry and their relationship is on the rocks…and then he dies in combat.

Lauren, now a young widow, has been living at the shore in her grandparents’ beach house for the past four years paralyzed by her guilt and confusion regarding the downfall of her marriage and the death of her husband, avoiding the challenges of moving on with her life, when her parents and older sister and young son decide to spend the summer with her to work out their respective life problems.  Not accustomed to company, Lauren is unhappy with the intrusion and to make matters worse, a film maker has tracked her down to interview her for his movie about the life of her hockey and military hero husband.  Living a reclusive life, Lauren has avoided speaking publicly about her high profile husband, but as the persistent filmmaker, Matt, begins to pursue Lauren and her sister for information, buried secrets are revealed, one so drastic it could change everything. 

With suspense and secrets, The Husband Hour is about love and loss, deceit, healing and forgiveness.  Last summer I read and enjoyed The Forever Summer, and now Jamie Brenner treats us to another heartfelt story centered around family and the bonds that hold them together.  Put a copy in your beach bag!

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Jamie Brenner grew up in suburban Philadelphia on a steady diet of Norma Klein, Judy Blume, and Judith Krantz novels (more on that here).  After studying literature at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Jamie moved to New York City where she started her career at HarperCollins Publishers, then later Barnes&Noble.com and Vogue.com before returning to books and becoming an author.  Her novel The Forever Summer is a national bestseller. Her new book, The Husband Hour, publishes April 24 with Little, Brown.  Jamie  lives in New York City with her husband and teenage daughters.  For contact info, tour dates, and book clubs please visit www.jamiebrenner.com

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

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My Review:

Wow!  My Absolute Darling is literary fiction at its finest! This vividly written debut is rich in language with full descriptive prose and incredibly complex characters.  Turtle, a motherless teenager living with her reclusive, resourceful, survivalist dad, has an unusual existence.  Some of her days begin with raw eggs and a sip of beer before she goes on the bus to middle school.  With little interaction amongst her classmates and not much interest in academics, her attendance is haphazard.  Not the typical northern California fourteen year old, she spends lots of time wandering around alone outside in nature and is often busy cleaning her gun.  Her large and physically imposing father, Martin, provides sparse supervision and motivation, yet he is all she has, and she says she loves him.  Martin loves her, teaches her everything he knows about surviving in this crazy world, yet they have an unspoken dirty little secret and there is a dark cloud of hatred between them.

The tension between Martin and Turtle escalates as the story progresses, with the death of Grandpa, the new boy in Turtle’s life and Turtle’s journey into adulthood.  When Martin brings home a young girl to live with them, Turtle sees the evil in Martin more clearly, her maturity coinciding with increasing will and courage to plan her escape. The damage Martin has inflicted on Turtle’s self image is seemingly unsurmountable, her self hatred is overwhelming and she constantly battles inner conflict, yet in other ways he taught her survival skills, and she must conjure up the strength to do what she needs to escape.

Emotionally painful and exhausting to read, I needed to put the book down at the end of each chapter to absorb, contemplate and recover, then was immediately compelled to pick it right back up again to continue.  It is crazy to say I loved a book with such distasteful subject matter, but the way author Gabriel Tallent developed his characters and moved me with his writing is a testament to the power of his words.  I highly recommend My Absolute Darling.

 

As seen on Goodreads:

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.

Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

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About the Author (seen on book cover):

Gabriel Tallent was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers.  He received his BA from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest.  Tallent lives in Salt Lake City.

YA Novels…For the Young AND Young at Heart

During the past 20 years, Young Adult fiction has been in the spotlight and greatly appreciated by kids and adults alike.  The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling was introduced in 1997, followed by The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins .  A Fault in Our Stars by John Green was published in January 2012 and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews in March 2012.   All made it to the big screen which has generously contributed to book sales and increased fandom.  Due to the success of the Harry Potter fantasy novels, in 2000, The New York Times began a Children’s Bestseller List, indicating that the YA audience was substantial and there were enough worthy novels to support it.  Several years ago the list was modified, separating hardcover middle grade and YA titles from paperback and e-book bestsellers.

I definitely enjoy a good coming of age story; teenage angst, first loves and budding friendships.  Here are three wonderful selections for you no matter how old you are.  Movie discussions have occurred for all three, but as of now, none are in the theaters… so take advantage and read the books first!

 

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell published in 2013.

As stated in Goodreads:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Order from Amazon here…

 

 

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson published in 2014.

As stated in Goodreads:

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

Order from Amazon here…

 

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All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven published in 2015.

As stated in Goodreads:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Order from Amazon here…

If you have any recommendations for current YA novels you think I would enjoy, please feel free to comment!