‘Normalized:’ Book Review

Here I go.  I promised I would never review another book after the last one.  Why?  Namely because the books that I am asked to review tend to be garbage.  Complete, stab-myself-in-the-eye-and-if-I-partially-lobotomize-myself-the-pain-might-go-away tripe.  So, when my editor asked if I’d review the book, Normalized, of course, I said yes (after finding out I could just buy it on Amazon rather than reading a long pdf or some other ridiculous work around which is not how you read a book!).

So.  You asked for it.  Here is my review of Normalized, a novel by David Bussell.  David, don’t be mad.

Normalized is a book that takes place in my idea of the perfect world.  Supervillains rob banks and superheroes protect us.  More and more supers are appearing every day, and our main character is the superhero-est of them all.  He doesn’t even know all of his powers, which he got when he was a teenager.  He forgot what it feels like to feel pain and has crazy (and not entirely uninteresting) sexual encounters with other hot super-chicks while buzzing Times Square.  He is the ultimate jock/jerk in a world full of ‘em. 

Spoiler alert (not really, if you read the synopsis when you buy the book): Through his own overconfidence, he loses his powers.  What next?  He struggles with “normal” (See book title above.) but refuses to give up being a hero.  Then, shenanigans.

The story is told in a first-person narrative.  It’s jarring at first – he talks to you, and he’s kind of an asshole – in the “I never knew wedgies hurt (said the jock)” way.  Also, he is incredibly, British(ly) sarcastic.  If you know a clever Brit, you know what I mean – sometimes, it can be hard to get to the facts through all of the damn ‘clever.’  Finally, since he’s a sarcastic jock, you can kind of predict what he’s about to say.  Sometimes, a lot – sometimes, a little.

What’s a cool, little device that David Bussell (the author, in case you forgot) uses?  Footnotes.  Lots and lots of footnotes.  Our hero has written his memoir and then came back at a later date and footnoted the shizzle out of it.  On Kindle, this works nicely, as you can easily click back and forth.  Also, the footnotes do (sometimes) take away the prickish arrogance of our superhero.  The footnotes give it a contrasting (and less arrogant) view and illustrate that this guy is still growing up.
That’s the worst that I have to say.  The best?  I’m glad you asked . . .

This book is compelling, given a little time.  The beginning took me a little time to get into (See jarring, first-person narrative above.), but once I did, I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it a lot.  What I thought I’d get was a complete pulp/simple story, instead David (still the author) did a nice job of evolving our storyteller from complete t--t to slightly less t---ty to (eventually) a good (if naïve) guy.  The transformation gives this tale just enough complexity to keep you from getting bored. (It did for me anyway.)

The story itself?  Clichéd, but I believe (Sorry if I’m wrong, David.) that was the intent.  It’s (at times) so clichéd that it is hard to catalog all of the tropes he is vandalizing and commenting on.  This adds to the fun, rather than taking away from it.  Clearly, our author has a sense of humor, not just about hot super(hero)model booty and groupy boobs – he’s got layers.

So, who should read this?  Kids from 14-22 would enjoy this – it’s a delayed, coming-of-age tale.  Who else?  Nerds from 12-77.  If you’re a comic book nerd, this is a pleasant diversion – perfect for the beach or the downtime you have between comic book Wednesday #1 and comic book Wednesday #2.  David Bussell did a nice job on a neat (if not completely new) idea and ties the story up in a relatively clever way.

So, check it out.  This is the best book I’ve reviewed as Simply Jack.  It’s simply good.

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