The Book That Made Me: David Almond 20/03/19
Am I Normal Yet?
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Sixteen-year-old Evie has made a fresh start. She's at a new college where no one knows that she has a history of OCD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Her medication has been reduced and she is meeting new people, going out and making real friends.
Establishing a 'Spinster Club' with two particularly good friends has given her a new focus for her energies - and the opportunity to vent frustrations about the opposite sex and compare notes on feminism. She is starting to believe that she could really be on top of things - so she braves a real 'date' with a boy from her sociology class. However, when the date goes disastrously wrong, and her worries escalate, all the signs suggest the risk of a relapse. But a dogmatic Evie is busy hiding her problems in an effort to appear 'normal' in front of her new friends.
First and foremost, this is a thoroughly absorbing story about a teenage girl with all the typical preoccupations involving friends, boys and college. Evie's general situation is one to which many will relate, and the author's narrative voice is natural and authentic.
The mental health difficulties add a further agonising challenge in Evie's life - and a fascinating dimension to the story, as the helpless reader witnesses a gradual and very painful relapse. However, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is by no means sensationalised and neither is it trivialised. It is thoroughly convincing, clearly having been conscientiously researched. We experience its controlling grip on Evie's day-to-day life, the many different possible stages and manifestations, and the vital importance of the right strategies and support from her therapist and family.
This is a powerful and engrossing read that successfully informs, shocks, reassures and entertains in equal measures - and will perhaps make a few readers think twice about trivialising this punishing and frequently misunderstood disorder.