Book: The Other Normals

"The Other Normals"

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 of 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 stubmles into the World of the Other Normals. Ther 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.

I’m a little up in the air about this book. On the one hand, I liked it. I found it engaging enough that what was supposed to be an hour’s worth of break turned to three, just so I could finish the book. But there’s something off about it as well.

I just can’t put my finger on what that off something is.

So let me break it down.

Story-wise, it’s very engaging–as I already said. The novel intrigues you enough to make you keep wanting to know what happens next. And it’s unpredictable enough, that you don’t even want to second-guess what’s going to happen. You just want to experience it.

And the book also succeeds in making likeable characters, as you do care about them enough that you want them to succeed. And though their flaws already border on the unlikeable territory, they still maintain enough pull that you don’t want harm done to them. That you don’t want them dead.

That said, one of the problems I encountered in reading this novel was perception. Ned Vizzini’s other work, Be More Chill, played with the importance of public image and how you carry yourself. This novel takes that a step further by introducing a twist: actions affect a person’s imaging. In a big way.

And, hang on, I think a big reason of why I can’t make my mind up if I like this book or not, is because it fails in follow through. Well, partly.

We see Peregrine’s actions affect the world of the Other Normals, but we only see parts of it in our world. Glimpses, really. And this teases a bigger conspiracy and a bigger story, yet doesn’t deliver on it.

I’ve read books that don’t get a full wrap-up and still give a sense of closure and resolution. Perks of Being a Wallflower comes to mind. So does Be More Chill, actually. But while The Other Normals provide a resolution, it doesn’t give closure. Or, if it does, it’s not a satisfying one.

Unless Vizzini plans on revisiting this world in the future, with more development from Peregrine. That’s the only reason I can think of why Vizzini would end where he ended. Because, personally, I didn’t see an end of journey for Peregrine when the novel ended. It felt like we were just about to enter denouement.

But I could be reading it the wrong way. After all, I did say I liked it. And even after over-analyzing, I can still say I liked it.

Let’s see if what other people have to say will help me make my mind up:
The Book Reaper
Small Review
Toast Pop

Okay. So. Reading the reviews, I realize now that I do like the book enough to overlook the things other people didn’t like. Though, Small Review does bring up a good point about expectations:

She wanted a traditional fantasy world but was given a weird and convoluted world that didn’t seem well-formed. While I did like how weird and convoluted the world is, I do agree that the fantasy world doesn’t feel whole. Or real.

It was bowing too much to where the author wanted the story to go, so it didn’t feel natural. The plot developments did not feel like the were where the story would naturally go.

And it’s hard to define what are inconsistencies in characters, and what are actually developments that the story gave them.

Oh, also, I really found it annoying how one character dies and disappears from thought after a couple of chapters. I thought said character should have mattered more to the survivors. I guess I thought wrong.

Who else has read this book? Let’s discuss what worked and what didn’t. Hit me up with your comments!

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