Róisín Reviews: The book that took everyone by storm – ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney

A book that I enjoyed recently was the novel ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney.

‘Normal People’ is about two teenagers that meet in school and gradually develop deeper feelings for each other. It starts off with them young and throughout the book I felt as if I was growing with the characters. Perhaps that’s why I like this book so much.

Young adult novels as a genre provide me with a kind of familiarity, and within these types of books, you can often find the characters having similar experiences or worries to your own when growing up. What stood out in Normal People for me though was the kind of comfort within it, which simultaneously was not cliché. It had the necessary tropes of a romance at its disposal but as well as this it felt gritty like real life can sometimes be.

I really enjoyed how much you’re able to get to know the characters as the plot unfolds. The book gives you these characters bit by bit in a way such a way that you felt close to them. Its interiority makes it rich, because it allows the reader to really enter each character’s head and experience their true worries, thoughts and feelings with them. Rather than grand gestures with big plot twists and turns, this book focuses on the detail of things which I thought was unusual.

Some books can be big and bold, whereas the tone of Normal People was understated but powerful. For example, it covered what it’s like to be an outcast at school, and the nuances and difficulties of a relationship – especially when you are young and at a time when people are struggling and grasping for their own identities. It raised issues about class and the differences in upbringing the characters Connell and Marian had. This was also interesting because the book was able to showcase different struggles from each end of the spectrum. It did not follow the simple narrative of Marian having money so therefore ‘having it easy’ and both she and Connell had their own issues to work through. The characters felt the same yet so different.

I also felt that Rooney was able to encapsulate the protagonist’s connection and closeness so well that you swear you could feel their impulses as if you, yourself were living each moment with the characters as they grow. If you want a book to escape yet simultaneously relate to, this one is for you.

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