26 November 2014

Normal by Danielle Pearl

 It's the kind of situation most people would dread. Starting at a new high school, in the middle of my senior year, in a new town, in a new state. I know no one. No one knows me. That's what I'm counting on.

A year ago, Aurora "Rory" Pine was just a normal teenage girl - just as sweet and naive as the fairy tale princess she was named after.

But this isn't a year ago.

Rory is broken, and now suffering from a debilitating anxiety disorder, wrought with precarious triggers, she moves across the country to escape the source of her troubles. Her plan is anonymity, but that's easier said than achieved for the new girl having a panic episode outside of calculus. The worst part? There's a witness - and a gorgeous one at that.

Sam is a walking trigger for Rory. Incredibly handsome, built like the star athlete he obviously is, and undoubtedly popular, Sam outwardly represents everything Rory despises about high school. But as the fates keep throwing them together, a connection sparks that neither ever expected, and certainly couldn't ignore.

But Sam has issues too, and Rory's past won't just stay in the damned past. When friendship evolves into something deeper, can a girl utterly destroyed by the worst kind of betrayal and a boy battling demons of his own ever have a normal relationship? Is that even what they want? Find out in NORMAL, a gritty story of trust and abuse, heartbreak and salvation, and if they're lucky - love. This is not a flowery romance - not for the faint of heart.
Before you start this book you should have your Kleenex near and be prepared to have your heart broken repeatedly, to be terrified for another, to get pissed off, to be horrified by a parent's actions, and to fall in love. Ms. Pearl has penned a book that made me feel all of that and more through the telling of Rory's story as she struggles to recover from a series of tragedies and tries to find her Normal.


If you are sensitive to the subject of rape, you may want to avoid this book. While the author does an excellent job of portraying Rory's abuse at her ex's hand, she does so in such a way that I felt Rory's fear and helplessness. The scenes are detailed without being inappropriately graphic. I realize that's an odd statement, so I'll try to clarify it. I read dark erotica involving dubious consent, books in which the "victim" gets off on being "forced" because they're not actually being raped but rather acting out a kink. The sex scenes in such books are graphic because they're meant to be sexually stimulating for the reader. In Normal, Rory is raped several times and a couple of those times the rape is extremely brutal. Ms. Pearl has written the scenes in such a way that while the violence is graphic, there is no doubt that there was no consent and are not sexually stimulating. And because a huge part of the book deals with Rory learning to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and an enormous number of triggers, Normal could prove problematic for people who are sensitive to rape.


All that said, Normal is a well-written book that allows the reader to accompany Rory on her journey as she tries to start life over in a new school, in a new town, in a new state. Due to the above mentioned trauma, this is not an easy journey with a quick fix happy ending nor is this an easy book to read because of the subject matter. But Rory is a complex character who is so well-written that her hopes and fears barreled right off the page at me. Ms. Pearl does an amazing job of shifting from past to present – not only in clearly indicating it in the book, but also in the timing of the scene shifts so that I learned about Rory’s past at the same time Sam did (or shortly before) and this made it easy to understand his frustration and fears even though the story was told solely from Rory’s point of view. My only complaint about Normal is that when I started it I had no idea that it was the first book of a series; needless to say I was quite shocked when I arrived at the cliff. Ms. Pearl, please write quickly because my fingers can hold on to only so many cliffs and I really need to know what happens next. 


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