For a while now I’ve been staying within the YA genre and my recent choices have been one’s that tackle the theme of mental health. Mental health can be difficult to get right, but this was a very realistic and accurate portrayal of a girl with O.C.D (obsessive compulsive disorder) and G.A.D (generalised anxiety disorder).
Am I Normal Yet is narrated by Evie, a sixteen year-old British girl who has recently begun attending sixth-form college. A while before starting there she spent some time on a metal-health ward because O.C.D interfered with her life to such an extent. When we meet her she’s on antidepressants (with a view to getting off them) and seeing a counsellor. The book starts with an extract from Evie’s recovery journal which includes details like her weekly recovery goals. Extracts from this recovery journal appear throughout the book.
I was initially attracted by the title of this book as most of the time I feel anything but normal- what the hell is normal, anyway!? I didn’t know much about the book, except that Evie struggled with some of the problems I once had and still have to an extent. I used to suffer quite badly from O.C.D a long time ago and thought I’d barely remember the details, but when Evie described it I could remember everything as if it all happened yesterday.
Although this was largely about mental health, friendship was a huge theme. When Evie started college her best-friend Jane, who’d supported her since the beginning of her mental-health issues, starts seeing a guy who plays guitar in a local death metal band and for all intents and purposes ditches Evie and starts spending all her time with him. Evie blames herself for this and assumes that Jane can’t be bothered with her ‘issues’ anymore and is quite down about it until she makes two new friends, Lottie and Amber. Her friendship with them features quite heavily throughout the book and is there to serve as a reminder of how friendship can be healing. I don’t agree with the idea that friendship is needed in order to heal, but I understand the effect it can have. The friendship was a bit much and cringe-worthy, if I'm honest.
The theme of feminism is integral and spurs Evie and her friends to form a club called ‘the spinster club,’ where they meet once a week to discuss issues affecting women. They’ve decided to reclaim the word spinster and alter its meaning to encompass freedom and independence. Feminism is an issue that has been largely marginalised by the mainstream so I appreciated its inclusion, although at times it did feel a little forced. Other things seemed a little forced, like the banter between everyone. I don’t know, it just felt like people’s idiosyncrasies were a bit cliqued, like Evie’s love interest, the singer/stoner, or the humour, instigated by the way Evie said archaic words at inappropriate times because she watched a lot of old movies.
I really liked how mental-health was handled so realistically, though. Like, I’d be reading something that Evie was thinking and I knew how accurate it was because I’d thought nearly the exact same thing at one time. Evie was so relatable and I could feel her frustration and insecurity acutely. I just felt it was sometimes a tiny bit too fluffy which detracted a little from the realism for me.