Book Review: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini
“Whoa!” Gamary yells as a sword jabs through the door.
“Open up!” a voice orders. The sword jerks up and down but, lodged in the wood, it can’t get far. From the size of it I know it’s Officer Tendrile’s.
“Hurry up!” Gamary pleads.
“Peregrine.” Ada takes my hand. “You have to go back to cdamp and kiss Anna Margolis, do you understand? We’ll find Mortin in Granger Prison.”
“How? You’re trapped here.”
“I have a service exit,” Gamary says, “if you two don’t get us killed by dawdling.”
“If you don’t kiss her, you won’t free the princess, and the dark shroud of violence that you see will continue to befall us.: She holds up the silver figure. I look into the princess’s eyes. The thakerak sparks, and I sear, for a second, the princess winks at me.
“Why can’t we free her here?”
Ophisa- he’s in the Badlands, right? We’ll get an adventuring party together and defeat him. Me, you, Gamary . . . plus we can rescue Mortin and bring him. I’ve demonstrated my worth as a warrior, right? We’ll kill the monster, free the princess, and all live happily ever after.:
“You’re saying you would rather travel to the Badlands, infiltrate Ophisa’s lair, try to avoid the poison that he spits from his unblinking eyes, run under him with a sword, and plunge it into his dark and distended heart . . . than kiss a girl in your summer camp?“
“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying!”
“You have bowels, Peregrine, I’ll give you that, but-“
“You’re brave. Bowels.”
“Oh. Uh . . . ” I’m embarrassed to correct her, and we are in a time-sensitive situation, but I remember what Mortin said: you should always correct a friend who mispronounces something.
“You’re thinking of a different term, Ada. It’s balls.“
“Like male human testicles?“
“Yes. Well. Yes.”
“That’s not fair. What do you say for a woman, then?”
Peregrine’s ideal summer of playing Creatures and Caverns disappears in smoke when he discovers that his parents are sending him to summer camp. Worried about his social skills, they’ve decided to ship him off to Camp Washiska Lake, where he’s to learn to interact with his peers and become “normal”. However, when Peregrine discovers the portal to The World of Other Normals, everything he’s learned from Creatures and Caverns and his burgeoning social skills will be needed in order to save both worlds.
Stuck in a world where his parents are divorced and dating their divorce lawyers, and only communicate through their lawyers, sixteen year old Peregrine just wants to play Creatures and Caverns. But when he’s discovered skipping class to play with a friend across town, that’s the last straw for his parents: off to Camp Washiska Lake, which is nothing like the brochures look like. With the camp confiscating his C&C materials, getting jumped in a fight within the first ten minutes, and his friend basically disowning him, Peregrine doesn’t think he’ll make the summer. But then he discovers the portal to The World of Other Normals, which is exactly like the world his C&C is based on- as it should be, as the guy he followed in is the writer of the manuals. Yet the Other Normal world has had their princess captures, and the only way to save it is for Peregrine to kiss a girl on his side of the portal- before it’s too late. Flipping back and forth between the worlds, and changing things on both sides of the lines while he does, can Peregrine save the Other Normals and his World? Definitely a geeky and sweet coming-of-age story, with hilarious dialogue and awkward situations that make you feel for Peregrine. I’d pair it with In The Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern or even more gamer books such as Ender’s Game or Ready Player One, depending on what your reader was looking for. 3.5 out of 5 stars. As of March 22, 2013, Goodreads rates The Other Normals as 3.38 stars.
I know kids like Peregrine; heck, I think I married one. They may not be C&C players, they may be Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic players, or engrossed in Assassin’s Creed 3, but their gaming world (card, table, electronic or otherwise) may be their safe space- where they feel in control of something. This is what happens with Peregrine- out of control with his family, with his alcoholic brother, and his school, C&C is the one thing he can control. It’s his safe zone.
I really liked that The World of Other Normals paralleled Peregrine’s real world so closely; in fact, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the one-to-one relationships of the characters from one side to the other. I knew which one was Peregrine even if he didn’t, but his brother’s was a surprise. I love surprises in the book. The ending of the book was fun as well, and sets it up for future novels as well, which I hope will come, because I have a feeling Peregrine’s story is far from over. I definitely want to know what happens with Peregrine and Ada.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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