We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia | Review

Genre/s: Contemporary, YA, Romance, LGBTQIAP+

Release Date: 31st March 2020

Read Date: 6th Feb 2020

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Before I go ahead and get into my review, I would like to say a massive thank you to the publisher Harper Collins and everyone over at Harper360 for sending me an early copy of this book in exchange for review.

This book follows protagonist Nandan on a journey of self discovery throughout his junior year and all that entails. Parties, romance, and figuring out who he wants to be.

I’m rather disappointed. This was really not what I was expecting at all. There were some very problematic elements regarding the way the main character treats other people in addition to some very clear instances of sexism and manipulation. At times I could see the good shining through and honestly understand what the author was attempting to do. It was extremely honest, to the point of making this one of the most uncomfortable reading experiences I’ve ever had. And I did feel like that meant for an excellent conversation starter. However to round this off the protagonist in my opinion should have had more of a realisation or understanding of what he had done wrong or at least think about what he could’ve done better. But that was where this was lacking. The protagonist continuously takes advantage of other people’s feelings in order to forward his own social standing. He admits that he decided to come out in order to get attention and fit better into the popular group. And often his thoughts ponder over the fact he enjoys the social ramifications and will continue to lie about his feelings in order to develop a closer relationship with some of the girls. This is not something I can look over or explain away in any possible way. The pressure of society in no way should then pressure anyone to say or do anything or act any sort of way, but I can see how it does. However the behaviour this character portrays is on a complete level of his own. This book has one of the most insensitive portrayals of a lgbtq+ relationship I’ve ever read from an own voices author. I just don’t know that this is something someone questioning their gender or sexuality should read, I really feel as though it could be harmful and it’s not something I would’ve wanted to read when I was a teenager. ‘He touched my leg while I drove; I felt a wave of disgust that made me think, oh, so this is what normal guys feel when another dude touches them.’ So if we’re not straight we’re abnormal? This is just one of the instances where the word choice really should’ve been thought over. The flippant way ‘normal’ is used in this context is extremely frustrating and hurtful. And now the title of the book ‘We Are Totally Normal’ really doesn’t sit right with me. (I understand that this could be a way of saying no one is normal, therefore everyone is normal, but paired with the way word choice is used in the book, this isn’t well done). Also, fair enough if someone isn’t always into someone else, but there was no need for the amount of times the word disgust was used in this book. Possible Spoilers Ahead! I know the author has stated that this is queer and that it has a ‘happy ending’, however Nandan in my opinion didn’t read like someone denying their inner feelings. He read like someone taking other peoples feelings for granted and using them in a very dishonest way, while all the time truly believing that he is straight. And the ending didn’t quell any of those thoughts for me, I still felt like he was pretending in his relationship and the way this was written was the primary reason I felt like this. If it was more clear that Nandan was a very unreliable narrator then I wouldn’t have taken his thoughts to heart. But once again there was no realisation that he was denying his feelings, and so I took them at face value. I hate to call out bad writing but I honestly feel like this was too short and the way this was written meant for a bad experience. Either that or my arc had a lot of missing pages. I honestly wish I had stopped reading this half way through an imagined a better progressive end to the story. In conclusion, I know some people will probably really love what this book does and have a completely different take away from it than I did. Life’s messy and uncomfortable and that is very much what this book is. But I’m sad to say it wasn’t the book for me and I just want to leave a warning and let you know to be aware that there are problematic things in this book if you’re going to read it.

Rating: 1.5 Stars

Thank you for reading!