For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee's full-time carers, there's no time in Maddy's life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy's mind is falling in love.
Some things, she's about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.
DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .
I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
Differently Normal is a poignantly moving novel that left me a blubbering but smiling mess by the time I finished the last page - It is a book I didn’t know I needed in my life.
I should have known that this book was going to break my heart from the description on the cover “If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t first love” – however I couldn’t stop myself from hoping throughout the whole novel for a happy ending. Differently Normal is full of love, laughter and first love that had me grinning from ear to ear, however it isn’t all roses and butterflies. Heartache, inner turmoil, domestic abuse, ignorance and tragedy are also themes within this book.
Differently Normal features chapters from our main protagonist Maddy and a boy she meets; Albert. Maddy doesn’t have a very “normal” life – she is also, along with her mother, a full time care taker to her Autistic sister Bee. Bee features heavily throughout the novel and nearly every scene that she was in left me smiling and at times, giggling to myself – she was so happy, innocent and bubbly. She lit up the scene and warmed my heart. It was also heartbreaking – when she suffered from her epileptic fits, it was so hard to read, knowing she didn’t really understand what was happening.
Maddy is quite set with her life, knowing she will never be able to leave or accomplish her dream to be a photographer – she could never leave Bee. Her sense of responsibility and loyalty to her family is endearing and sad at the same time. Maddy is very protective of those close to her, it takes a lot for someone to win her over – something that Albert manages to do.
Albert, beautiful and caring Albert. His family life broke my heart – his father and brother were misogynistic *insert words I am unable to put here*. Constantly thrown under a bus by his father and belittled everyday about not being a proper “man”. Even poor Alberts mother feared her husband – she flinches when he touches her and hides in the laundry. Albert was the complete opposite of his father and his endeavour to win over Maddy left me wishing for an Albert of my own!
The plot moves at the perfect pace throughout the novel. This is a book about first love and it never loses sight of it throughout the events that occur.
The end of this novel had me in tears – literally sobbing, however it wasn’t just because of sad events but because I was so happy that out of tragedy comes triumph and some of the characters in the novel (I won’t say who – spoiler free review!) found their courage to make changes in their lives.
Differently Normal raises autism awareness and shows the ups and downs of everyday life. Overcoming tragedies, moving forward with life and taking on new challenges.
Nobody is perfect, everybody is different = Differently Normal.