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Reader’s Report: ‘Normal People’

Hi there! My name is Ani and this is Reader’s Report, where I review a book that I’ve read recently and explain exactly how I feel about it to you lovely people. I was inspired to continue these book reviews from the previous articles featured on the Hoot called “BookTok: Worth it or Not?” and since the author Victoria Morrongiello ’23 has now graduated, I am taking on the honor of continuing these reviews in some way, shape or form. 


A lot of you may be thinking, “Wow, Ani, is there any book you don’t like???” So for this week, I’ve decided to choose a book that I cannot imagine ever picking up again. Let me make a disclaimer: this is an unpopular opinion. I’ve had so much time to think about this and honestly, I will not change my opinion. Maybe it’s a personal problem, maybe it’s not, but you can come to your own conclusions. So without further ado, this week’s book is “Normal People” by Sally Rooney.


I feel like I should apologize. And on one hand, I want to, but on the other? No thanks.


The fact of the matter is, this book doesn’t even start on a good note. In case you’ve never had the displeasure of picking it up, this book has no (NO) quotation marks and if you’re confused, believe me, I am too. There is not a single quotation mark in the entire book, which means that every time a character speaks, you just have to assume that they’re saying it out loud. Not only that, but you also have to assume the tone of voice that they’re using because there is no description of it. I’m so sorry, but I did not sign up for a build-your-own-miscommunication-trope adventure. Also, they’re from Ireland. They have Irish accents. Please do not take this as a bad thing; it’s just that I didn’t find out about this until I was halfway through the book, and needless to say, I was shocked.


Speaking of miscommunication tropes, the characters in this novel, Marianne and Connell, have never had a frank and honest conversation in their lives. These two dance around their problems and then act shocked when nothing works out. Marianne won’t talk to Connell and then assume that she knows exactly what he’s thinking. Hint: she actually has no idea what he’s thinking! Quick, everyone act shocked! And the best part is, Connell does the same thing! So it’s just a cycle! Of miscommunication! Isn’t that great!?


But here’s the thing, the confusing relationship of Marianne and Connell isn’t necessarily awful. I mean, if anything, it’s probably a real representation of situationships today, except it’s a situationship where they never learn to LET IT GO. After 10 YEARS. The real problem is when people on TikTok act like the relationship in “Normal People” is the picture of true love, when it’s very clearly not. They struggled so much throughout their time together and they were never open with one another about anything. Not feelings or even their daily lives. Every conversation that they had up until the point they were actually dating was awkward and felt super tense. To be honest, I feel like the only reason why people like this book so much is because it allows them to project their feelings of what they wish their own situationships could be in the future. For example, the idealized situation where he actually liked them the whole time but had self esteem issues or something. Again, I’m sorry, but I read books to feel joy, not to feel the crushing reminder of that one situationship.


It’s important to mention that “Normal People” has the potential of being a really great book. What would make a difference is if people approached it critically rather than romanticizing the relationship between Connell and Marianne. Sure, they have their cute moments, but honestly, readers could learn more from their mistakes than their romantic adventures. 


I’m also not a fan of the way that the author wrote the book in itself, especially Marianne’s struggle with her confidence after enduring an abusive relationship. There should’ve been more focus on her rebuilding her relationship with herself rather than having Connell swoop in and “save her.” It feels like she never really learned to be on her own and never really healed from her experiences. She just tries to cover it up by jumping into a new one with Connell and justifying it by saying that she’s known him for a long time. To make matters worse, you have people saying that this is “the dream.” I don’t really know what to say to that. Like, are you sure?? 


To end on a good note, there is a show! From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty good and honestly, I think that I might like it better than the book since I’ll actually be able to see the emotions in the actor’s faces instead of having to imagine how they’re delivering the lines (since there’s no quotation marks in the book). Also, Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones. So yeah. I feel like that’s justified.


So, would I recommend this book? No. Especially if you’re going into it with the misguided notion that it’s a romance novel. If you really want to find your dream Irish man, make an appointment at the study abroad office. Or watch “Derry Girls,” the funniest show on the planet.


Well anyway, I’ll see you next time.

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