Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Normal People by Sally Rooney was probably one of the most interesting, and slightly confusing, books I have read in a long time. I was strangely engrossed in the story, though there was no real plot. After I finished, I set the book down and let out a deep breath, and I just felt sad. It is not how I typically feel after finishing a book, but then, I thought to myself, how incredible that Sally Rooney is able to evoke such strong emotions from her rather simplistic writing style. I cannot say Normal People is the right read for everyone, but it is one that I was glad I took a chance on and will recommend in the future. As simple as the writing was and as unstructured as the story line became, I was consumed in the characters and their well being.
Normal People is a highly character driven novel that follows high school seniors Connell and Marianne. Connell is popular and well liked among his peers, while Marianne is a lone wolf who prides herself in her independence and privacy. Connell and Marianne form an intense and surprising connection, but keep their relationship a secret. Before the school year is over, Connell and Marianne part ways, but they wind up coming back together on and off for years throughout college. The first time they cross paths is when they are both attending Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has shed her introverted shell and has friends and a budding social life, while Connell is on the opposite spectrum, shy and not confident. Throughout the years, Connell and Marianne continue their pattern of being together, then pushing each other away, while each facing their own demons.
This story was so intense and painful. There were times where I wanted to throw my book at the wall because I was so frustrated. Connell and Marianne connected on a cellular level, but were both so broken that they were never on the same wave-length. Each chapter was a different time in the future, anywhere from "5 minutes later" to "six months later." This kept the story going, but also created a strange type of plot. During their college years, Connell discovers that he suffers from anxiety and depression, while Marianne grapples with her self worth. Each of their story lines hit me to the core and evoked such strong emotions. Connell especially resonated with me. He constantly had the feeling of not belonging and worrying about things that others didn't. (Hello, anxiety! It's me, Mel.) And Marianne's relationships with other men were dark and abusive, but the depth of her mindset was incredible.
Sally Rooney used no quotation marks for the dialogue. I repeat, no quotation marks. To be honest, it was really strange at first and it took me a few chapters to get used to it. I am not sure why something as simple as quotation marks makes my mind less confused when I am reading dialogue, but they just do. Once I got over that, the story started to flow and I really got into it. If you decide to read this, be prepared to feel some deep, and sometimes dark, feelings. This is not a "feel good" story, but not all stories are and it is one worth reading. I gave Normal People by Sally Rooney ★★★★.
If you read this, let me know what you think because I would love to discuss it.