While the young adult genre has exploded in the last few years and broken boundaries regarding the intended readership, it’s still a rarity to find a young adult novel that appeals equally as well to teens and adults. Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games have all successfully made this “leap,” and now a new competitor has entered the field in the form of author Ned Vizzini’s (Be More Chill, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) The Other Normals.
The Other Normals is like visiting Narnia after smoking a pipe full of Earth pebbles (the ones with the really good quartz). Much like C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Vizzini’s The Other Normals deals with the discovery of a gateway to a fantasy world by a young hero who is uniquely prepared for the adventure that awaits him. Perry Eckert is a geeky teen who is obsessed with the tabletop RPG, Creatures & Caverns, despite the social ostracization it brings to his teenage life. Despite needing to hide his passion from his stoner, rocker, older brother, his divorced parents (and their constantly present divorce lawyers), and the general school population, things become even worse for Perry when the parental units decide it’s best that he attend summer camp in order to break him of his RPGing habits and force him to socially interact with the other boys and girls (gasp!) attending. Little does Perry know that the experience will change his life forever, revealing the existence of the fantasy realm Creatures & Caverns is based on. Armed with the skills he’s acquired through hours of gaming, Perry meets a number of mystical creatures beyond belief, including his “spiritual” guide Mortin Enaw (also a consultant for C&C) and the blue-haired and alluring Ada Ember, who immediately steals Perry’s teenage heart. (You never forget your first crush on a mystical creature.) While battling Octopus-men, cannibalistic, dog-headed creatures, and more, Perry will learn the confidence and bravery that exists within himself as he is forced to learn how to connect with his social peers in the human world, as well.
Vizzini is known for his fantastic dialogue and laugh-out-loud humor, and The Other Normals is no exception. Vizzini has created a world where fantasy creatures battle addictions to Earth pebbles, parents become romantically involved with their divorce lawyers, and campers at Lake Washiska are forced to sleep in yurts (small, circular cabins also used by Nomads in Tibets). The humor and quirkiness feel real and relatable without ever being boring. Vizzini also never shies away from the realities of teenage life. Refusing to dumb things down for his readers, Vizzini realistically portrays teenage life as a place where brothers discuss why girls don’t like pot smokers and the unexplainable awesomeness of female nipples, RPG books need to be smuggled through high school like social contraband, concerns regarding sex and puberty are constantly in the back of one’s mind, and one screams a triumphant, “Welcome to Camp Lake Washiska, motherf#$%er!” upon defeating one’s enemy. Vizzini remembers what it was like to be a fifteen-year-old geeky, young man, and Perry’s experiences, despite the fantasy elements, ring true in a way that many young adult authors shoot for and never reach.
I can not recommend The Other Normals enough! Vizzini blends his true-to-life teenage world with a hilarious and violent mystical world that is sure to appeal to a wide spread of readers, but will definitely connect in a special way with those who have had the pleasure of experiencing the world of tabletop RPGs. I can only hope that Vizzini has more adventures in the World of The Other Normals in store for his hero, Perry Eckert.
The Other Normals will be released on September 25th, 2012, but you can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com. Also, be sure to follow author Ned Vizzini on Twitter (@ned_vizzini) and visit his official website for some cool additional materials (like an interview with the main characters of The Other Normals!).
That’s all for now, dice chuckers! Until next time, don’t bogart those Earth pebbles!
– Bryant the Comic Book Slayer