Book Review: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

The Other NormalsThe Other Normals
Ned Vizzini
Balzer + Bray, September 2012
ISBN 978-0-06-207990-9

From the publisher—

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.

Ah, summer camp, that place where some kids can’t wait to go and others dread the experience as if it were prison, a punishment for unidentified misdeeds and social ineptitude. Such is the fate awaiting poor 15-year-old Perry Eckart when his parents drop him off at Camp Washiska Lake. It’s more than just his parents, though—his mom’s and dad’s significant others, divorce lawyers Horace and Kimberley, are actively involved in orchestrating what Perry is sure will be the worst summer of his life and his older brother, Jake, is enjoying his dismay immensely.

Sure enough, that’s the way things start out, with autocratic counselors and bullying older campers, the kind that would maybe be better suited to a juvenile detention facility. To add to his woes, who can he play his beloved role-playing game with? Playing Creatures & Caverns is when he’s most comfortable but Sam, his RPG buddy who has also been dumped at camp, is acting like he doesn’t want anything to do with Perry.

But wait, maybe there’s more to this camp than Perry expected! One minute he’s looking out a window and the next, he’s chasing a very odd and elusive creature into the woods and his life changes forever—or, at least, until he saves a princess who’s been kidnapped by a monster named Ophisa and brings order back to the World of the Other Normals with the help of his new friends, Mortin Enaw and Ada Ember.

I love this book, yes, love it. Never having been a teenaged boy—and having raised only girls—I can’t say with knowledge that this is a faithful rendition of a teenaged nerdy boy but, oh my goodness, it certainly seems so. The angst and goofiness abound and Perry is a completely dorky delight. Add to that an imaginative cast of characters, Normals and Other Normals, and a story that takes wings and you’ve got a few hours of wonderful entertainment.

Some of my favorite lines—

“God, life is too boring for me to live anymore, so can I please wake up in the morning in a more exciting place? Not that I want to be a whiner.”

“our transgressions are wholly childish and so we hide them as if they’re sexual”

“Listen. When you were growing up, we always told you that you could do whatever you wanted with your life. It’s time to drop that lie.”

“I don’t like being naked. I haven’t really had the Growth Spurt yet, you know what I mean?”

“The younger boys surround us like horrible reminders of what we used to be.”

Perry’s adventures and what he learns about himself along the way are nothing but fun—rush right out and get this book!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2012.