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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

Title: The Other Normals
Author: Ned Vizzini
Format Acquired: Hardcover 
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Publishing House: Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062079909
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Given the chance, fifteen year-old Peregrine "Perry" Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell-casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn't happening - not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp to become a man. They want him to be outdoors playing with kids his own age and meeting girls - rather than indoors alone, with only his gaming alter ego for company. Perry knows he's in for the worst summer of his life.

Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game, including the alluring Ada Ember, whom Perry finds more beautiful than any human girl he's ever met. Perry's new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.

Bestselling author Ned Vizzini delivers a compulsively readable and wildly original story about the winding and often hilarious path to manhood.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


This would be my second foray into Ned Vizzini's writing, the first being Be More Chill. What initially drew me into purchasing a copy for myself was the premise of Perry's quest in the alternate world, alongside his ongoing battle with maturity and growing up. I mean, I already know how awkward it is when you're hitting puberty, but when what sounded like a kickbutt epic gamer-style quest gets thrown in the mix, I knew I had to pick it up.

Did I get what I was looking for?

Sadly, no. I ended up reading a story about a fifteen year-old boy whose idea of playing the game Creatures & Caverns is just by creating the characters. (Kinda like playing dress up with Barbies, if you think about it.) If you thought your life was sad, Perry's life is honestly sadder. His older brother's a teenage alcoholic and disturbed faux-rock god, his parents are divorced and are seeing their respective divorce lawyers, and Perry has zilch friends to speak of. When his parents get wind of his role-playing game obsession, they -including the aforementioned lawyers- unanimously agree to send Perry off to camp to be a normal teenager. It is after accidentally hitting, and getting beat up by one of the camp's bullies that Perry sees an actual creature from his game, and is catapulted into an alternate universe, and it is here where Perry learns that he has an actual mission back home, and that is to kiss the most beautiful girl from the camp opposite his, to save the dodgy creatures from the alternate universe he gets transported to by way of a car battery and magic mushrooms.

The best thing about this book would be Perry Eckert's narration. It gave a great insight on the thoughts of pubescent boys, and was actually quite believable. Some of the scenes are honestly quite unexpected; honestly, they're really quite random - so random, in fact, that I can't even determine if it's a good thing or a bad thing. However, I had a hard time thinking of the actual point of the book. I remember one of my college professors addressing those of us in his Filipino literature class, "Maybe there isn't a point. Why must we always look for an objective? Couldn't art just exist for art's sake?" But I don't think he would be referring to the likes of this book. Sure, Perry had a nice, easy transition in the end, but it somehow felt lacking for me. There was no epic quest, and I just really couldn't think of where "Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero." comes in, which is something that the blurb promises. The scenes were uninspired, and too convenient for the main protagonist to actually spur events to transpire. The contrived humor was off-putting, and oftentimes, Perry would actually make me cringe at how pathetic and hopelessly immature he was coming off as. 

I think I'm just really not part of Vizzini's target audience. I have no idea, however, if this would better appeal to male readers, so if you're into gaming, and ever fancy yourself a little getaway into a fantasy world like Perry's, maybe you'd be the right one to give this book a little whirl.



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