Source: Bought it!
All Evie wants is to be normal. And now that she’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the-girl-who-went-nuts, there’s only one thing left to tick off her list…But relationships can mess with anyone’s head – something Evie’s new friends Amber and Lottie know only too well. The trouble is, if Evie won’t tell them her secrets, how can they stop her making a huge mistake?
I’m going to start off by saying I loved this book. I’m always up for reading something which challenges stereotypes and am really enjoying the diversity of topics covered in YA fiction right now. In Am I Normal Yet?, Bourne writes about sixteen year old Evie who is trying to regain control of her life after being diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
What struck me about this novel is how much research has gone into it in order to portray Evie’s mental illness as accurately and sympathetically as possible. Bourne acknowledges that Evie is suffering from the cliched symptoms of OCD (excessive hand washing and an obsession with cleanliness) and that mental health issues come in packages of all shapes and sizes. She focuses not only on the physical effects of OCD but the mental struggles too: the desire to be normal, the daily battle against ‘bad thoughts’, feelings of guilt and shame, worry over people’s opinions and the stigma surrounding mental illness, and denial when recovery does not go to plan. It would have been much simpler for her to have written a book about a girl overcoming her mental illness and living happily ever after, but that book would not have been nearly as good. Or as realistic. It’s so important to show a wide range of thoughts and emotions that can affect people who are living with OCD or other mental illnesses, and this is done fantastically well in this book.
This is not simply a book about mental illness, however. It is also a story about a group of young girls trying to figure out what sort of people they want to be. This is where Evie’s friends, Lottie and Amber, come in. I have to say I loved this friendship and its girl power message. The trio encourage each other and educate each other about feminism, and I love that they discuss women and what it means to be a feminist as a young girl. They are intelligent and clued in about the world but they also like talking about boys and clothes and other ‘girly’ things. Their struggle to always live up to a feminist ideal in a patriarchal society felt very real to me and is something I can absolutely relate to.
Overall, this is a sensitively written novel about mental illness, but also an unashamedly feminist story about friendship and family and self-discovery. This is also the first in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to spend more time with the Spinster Club.