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Book Review: Normal People

Normal People | Photo by Alexis Lewis | The Wright State Guardian

“Normal People” by Sally Rooney is a perfect yet polarizing summer book for those looking to read about mundane and poignant escapades of youth, connection and normalcy. 

A bit of a bore

With over one million reviews on Goodreads and an average rating of just under four stars, “Normal People” by Sally Rooney combines Ernest Hemingway’s straightforward writing style with Ottessa Moshfegh and Hanya Yanagihara’s attention to emotion and bitter trauma.

The book follows Connell and Marianne from high school to university to post-graduation life. In a rollercoaster ride of emotional shifts, frustration and vengeful actions, the two navigate their lives based on the opinions of others and what it means to be “normal” – whatever that might mean.

That is it. That is the plot. 

While Connell and Marianne are likable enough—and very relatable in many instances—there is a sense of emotional detachment between the reader and the two main characters. While it is easy for readers to root for the two, the isolation that Connell and Marianne feel translates through Rooney’s writing style (yet the television series on Hulu depicts these emotions much more fluidly). 

On the other hand…

Although “Normal People” is premised on being a general, normal story about two people, the intricate nature of Connell and Marianne’s analyses of the world around them proves to be more expressive, maybe even more than their love for each other (which is still almost a religious and spiritual undertaking). 

Marianne’s character is supposed to resemble a more odd, unpopular girl in high school and college; however, her ability to read other people and see their motives proves that she is much more in tune with the world than her bullies. 

Connell, who is popular and well-liked, is one of the only people who can see Marianne for her good and admirable qualities and intelligence. 

The two, who come from largely different backgrounds, are able to break through these boundaries to find one another and themselves in a confusing, chaotic and whirlwind story of on-again off-again closeness. 

To be honest

This book has been met with criticism for its mundanity and pacing (and lack of quotation marks to set off quotes). While these are surely setbacks, Sally Rooney ultimately crafts an impeccable image of two normal kids learning what living really means, which can be a tumultuous, emotional and tiresome venture.

If you are looking for a book that forces you to read between the lines and takes you on an emotional adventure perfect for coming-of-age times, “Normal People” is the book for you. 

Alexis Lewis


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