I like the surprise of not reading the jacket flap before I read a book – cover, title, and maybe a familiar author – are all I know going in.  It’s a little game I like to play to let the story, whatever it may be, unfold and take me wherever it wants to go.

So when I started Ned Vizzini’s The Other Normals, I expected a realistic fiction story about a possibly disaffected, alienated teen guy who liked to play role playing games.  Pretty safe bet and I was proved right – at first.  15 year old Perry Eckert is what his mother painfully refers to as “a late bloomer;” puberty seems to have passed him by, he’s socially awkward, and he’d prefer to spend all his time holed up in his room creating characters for an epic roleplay game, Creatures & Caverns.  It doesn’t help at all that his brother is a jerk, his divorced parents and their lawyers are way out of touch, and he doesn’t have any prospects for friends or, dare he dream, a girlfriend.  His parents are so concerned about his obsession with the game and his serious lack of social skills that they decide to send him to a summer camp upstate, which Perry knows will be hell in a tent.

But something completely unexpected happens to Perry (and to me) when he gets to camp: he meets Mortin Enaw, a ferrule, a creature from C&C!  And not only that, but Mortin takes Perry into the world of the Other Normals, a parallel universe, through a gate in the woods outside camp.  In the world of the Other Normals, mass violence and all-out war is about to erupt unless the missing princess can be safely returned and Mortin believes that the correspondences between the two universes can be used to save the princess and he needs Perry’s help to do it.  As Perry embarks on this quest with Mortin and other mythical creatures, he realizes that he is uniquely prepared to handle the challenges that lie ahead in the world of the Other Normals.  But to really set both worlds to right, Perry will have to figure out how to make real connections in the human world before it’s too late.

The Other Normals turned out to be more than just an alienated, awkward coming of age story: with the trips to a parallel (but not so unfamiliar) universe, this turned into a weirdly wild, colorfully detailed, imaginative, funny and thought-provoking trip into the life of a guy who turned out to be a heck of a lot more than anyone (including himself) ever gave him credit for.

  • Posted by Cori


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