One of Book Of The Month’s April Picks and written by acclaimed author Sally Rooney, Normal People tells the story of two young adults trying to find their place in the world while also realizing what the other truly means to them.
In high school, Connell is popular and Marianne is a loner. They are friendly and form a strange connection, but do not hang out in the same social circles. In college, Connell is now a bit of an outcast, while Marianne has finally found her own group of friends. Though they aren't as close as they were, Connell and Marianne are continuously drawn to one another. But with Marianne’s self-destructive tendencies and Connell’s search for meaning in his life, they must each confront how far they would go to save one another.
While I do have a strong appreciation for this novel, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. I didn’t connect with the characters and frankly didn’t understand half of the reasons for why they did certain things. I got way too frustrated with the lack of communication between Connell and Marianne. I could understand why they were messed up in their own particular ways, but I found myself waiting for the moment when they would connect and share their overall feeling and emotions with one another, and it didn’t happen until the last 20 pages of the novel!
I also felt like I was missing some backstory for certain characters. For example, how did Lorraine get pregnant with Connell? What was her situation like as a single mother? Why was Marianne’s family so abusive towards her? How did Lorraine get to be employed by Marianne’s mother? I felt like there were so many unanswered questions.
I also found the pacing of the novel to be a bit confusing. The chapter breaks were interesting and helped me keep track of what month and year it was, but within the chapters, there was too much back and forth between past and present. I also didn’t like how there were no quotation marks to connote speech. As the reader, you get used to it, but it was a small pet peeve of mine while reading it.
I also didn’t like how broken Marianne was that she let people do whatever they wanted to her, and then as soon as she finally gets together with Connell she thinks “ah yes I can submit and be dependent on him now. And he won’t abuse me!” I was hoping for more of a redemptive arc for her where she realizes that she shouldn’t be so submissive and that Connell truly only wants what’s best for her. I just wish she would’ve realized how unhealthy her mentality going into a new relationship is.
Maybe this kind of contemporary novel just wasn’t for me? There were a lot of underlying psychological themes regarding mental illness (like depression), physical and emotional abuse, toxic/ unhealthy relationships, and self-worth which was interesting to read about. However, I did find it hard to pick up this book after putting it down. It was definitely a book I had to force myself to read in order to get into it again. I think I was also a bit disappointed because it wasn’t as romantic as I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t a bad book, per se, it just wasn’t my absolute favorite.
Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!