The Other Normals

By Ned Vizzini

1,989 ratings - 3.32* vote

Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine "Perry" Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn't happening--not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lac Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine "Perry" Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to

... more

Book details

Hardcover, 387 pages
September 25th 2012 by Balzer + Bray
ISBN
0062079905 (ISBN13: 9780062079909)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Eric

I wanted to like this, I really did. I loved Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story. I love coming of age stories. I love the fantasy genre. So this book was an easy sell to me.

Unfortunately, it didn't deliver on any level. The world building was just silly -- lots of basic mechanics were poorly explained or glossed over entirely, while lots of unnecessary details, such as the protagonists inability to pronounce the Other Normals word for money, were expounded on for far too long. More importantly, the characters were unrealistic to the point of bad parody -- the main character is supposed to be fifteen years old, and acts, at best, twelve. He is obsessed with his newly sprouted pubic hair, and this embarrassing-to-read-about detail is brought up multiple times. This surprised me, as this is the same author that captured the teenage zeitgeist so well in his previous work.

Another issue is this book's claim to be a young adult novel. This means the target audience will be about the main character's age -- hence the author won't be fooling his audience with his poor portrayal of a fifteen-year-old boy. Furthermore, the real goal of a young adult book is to give the depth of an adult story without detailing the objectionable sex, language and substance abuse -- meaning a 'PG'-to-'PG13' rating instead of a hard 'R'. While there is no sex (the main character is so naive in this regard it is unfathomable that he grew up in NYC, and not a cave), there are multiple f-bombs and other curses, as well as underage drinking. Now I am not a prude, and don't mind the language or drinking, I just don't understand the decision to make the story so immature and watered down, while leaving the adult vices in. It's the worst of both worlds, as far as a young adult novel is concerned.

Finally, there is the ending. As with almost everything I read now, it was shamelessly set up for a sequel with too many plot threads left unresolved. I understand authors wanting to franchise their work, but it shouldn't come at the expense of a complete story.

Heather

I just don't even know where to start with a review of this novel. The characters, Perry, well he is so endearing in an adorkable way, you know boys like this even if you were a girl, you were like him, maybe still have moments like he did. You can't help but like him, he's just trying to become a man and has no idea how to do it. He's fifteen and hasn't hit puberty. He's into playing an RPG game that's not played on a computer. Yeah, more adorkable. He makes his own battle plans and characters but doesn't name them. He doesn't buy the expensive characters. He doesn't even have friends to play the game with. What? No other "nerds" to play this game with. Until he meets Sam in the comic book store. And buys a book about C&C called "The Other Normals". They play in the stairwell at Perry's school and plan campaigns and battles. Perry has one friend.

And then his alcoholic brother tells him, he's going to Summer Camp. Not Math Camp. Nope this is normal camp with regular kids. His parents have been divorcing for 8 years and are dating their respective divorce lawyers so the lawyers confirm this bit of doom and then his parents do, too. It's the worst news he can imagine. As they drive to the camp, there is a sign that all lawyers must get out there. So the divorce lawyers get out without questioning it. (Weird) Maybe if they compared the brochure to the camp they would sue. The lake on the brochure is beautiful, in reality, it's drained. And so it goes with the rest of the camp. Perry's RPG things are confiscated except for a small figure his mom gives him before she leaves. It looks amazingly like Perry and comes in handy when he gets in a fight immediately.

And then, Perry's life changes forever. He follows a creature that he created for C&C into the woods and travels to the world of "The Other Normals". The adventures that follow prove his mettle as a boy on his way to manhood and disprove everything he thought he knew about the universe. He meets Mortin Enaw, Ada, Gramary and Leidan all of whom change his life and he changes theirs. He is tasked with kissing Anna, a girl from the camp across the non existent lake and when they send him back to his side of the world he gives it an awkward try. An embarrassing, unplanned and completely inappropriate thing happens. He has to escape to "The Other Normals" to get away from his shame.

Through a few trips back and forth, the events in his world are changed as well in "The Other World" but Perry himself is changed. He's no longer this kid who is afraid to live in the real world that he has to escape into an RPG to live. He learns to trust himself, think, be brave.

It is a funny story with weirdness at every turn. It is a story about an awkward teen whose pick up line is to hold a fire extinguisher and say, "You need this because you're so hot." He thinks the three story comic book store is like a "nerd Mothership." This is the young inexperienced Perry.

This is Perry in the world of "The Other Normals", just taking things in stride, sorta. "No I'm not. I put down my spork. Everybody uses sporks in the world of the Other Normals." Funny little tidbits are thrown in that make you back up and say, wait what? And you go back and read it again. I so see my youngest son in Perry an I'm going to get a print copy of this for him so he can see that growing up isn't all terrible. It can be a fun adventure. That's what I got most from the story, that despite the awkward phases, you can still go on, no matter how embarrassing or hard it seems.

I definitely think there is room for another story though it's nicely wrapped up. I'd love to read another adventure, growing up story about Perry. It was amazingly well written, fast paced, humorous and fresh. No wasted words, it never got slow or dragged. Even at 400 pages it was a fast read.

I haven't done it justice with my review. I know that. Hopefully others will do a better job. This is an amazingly well written story about the awkwardness of being different in a world of "normal" and trying to fit in. It's about finding that fitting in isn't at all what it's cracked up to be and that being different, being who you are is just fine. But you have to find out who that really is, be honest with yourself about who you are. And you have to move forward. Ned Vizzini is so great at capturing awkward teen years. I hope he continues to write these stories, for the awkward teens, boys and girls, everywhere.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher Balzer and Bray for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Laura

This was such a great book for the slightly geeky boy who is into RPGs (and possibly a fan of "The Big Bang Theory"). Perry's experience playing Creatures & Caverns by himself makes him a sadder character than the usual hero, but his actions in the World of the Other Normals will make them cheer.

It's his incredible geekiness and lack of social skills that makes him endearing. The scene at the dance? Priceless, and one that will resonate with just the boys who should read this book. Ditto his rant about being a Late Bloomer (and the Discovery of the Hair). He's so out of place in our world that you know that something will have to change. The changes he undergoes are obviously not normal (how many readers will end up in another version of the universe?) so aren't really inspirational except that they may give those gamers hope for the future.

My biggest complaint was that the C&C game wasn't well-explained, and the Other Normals' world didn't seem to match the game. Had that happened, it would have tipped the book into a 5-star.

ARC provided by publisher.



Cat

I can't even express how much I loved this book. Laughed out loud so many times. I am Perry Eckert's number one fan!

Juhina

The Other Normals was just 400 pages of laugh out loud hilarious dialogue, characters, and plot. I enjoyed everything in The Other Normals. Ned Vizzini knows how to write humorous dialogue and has a way of portraying a fifteen year old boy's insecurities and issues without sounding whiny, cliched or boring. The whole setting of this novel had me cracking up. Peregrine, who hates being called that and prefers Perry, is the son of two divorced parents. His brother is a cliched bad boy but his parents are each dating their own divorce lawyer (weird huh?), Ned took it to the next level and showed us that through this divorce Perry got a set of new parents. Everything in his family is facilitated through the lawyers. Be it setting up time for lunch or sending in a birthday gift. I found that unbelievably funny especially when I read people's reactions later on. Also, the camp he is sent in had a sign saying no lawyers allowed, so what did the two lawyers do? they got out of the car in the middle of no where, and bid them farewell. I mean what? These scenes are so ridiculous yet so funny so you don't really think too much on how that made no sense.

Perry loves role playing games, his game of choice is Caverns & Creatures. However one day in camp he sees a creature just like the one in his story. This is when the fantasy is infused in the novel. Perry ends up going to the other world that can not be pronounced using the human language. A whole conversation is dedicated on choosing a name for that world and it was decided to call it "The Other Normals World". Now Perry is a late bloomer, or at least that is what his mom says which is backed up by his hairless situation that he mentioned once or twice to the readers. So once he is in The Other Normals World and ends up participating in a fight or two and actually using weapons to fight, he does not want to go back to the human world where everyone thinks of him as a white boy, not man or guy, but a boy. I really enjoyed the secondary characters, such as Mortin and Ada, who are Other Normals. The story was fast paced when we get to the action and we meet so many different creatures and species and I just had a blast imagining them all. One species had the bodies of supermodels but frog heads, others had human heads but octopus bodies.

One thing I really liked about this novel is the format of its chapters. I know many people hate long chapters and I am one of them. Some chapters were one page long! I found myself reading more and more this way, every time I end I chapter I see the next chapter is only two pages long so I tell myself to just read the next chapter. This cycle would stay like that and I end up reading 50 more pages that what I was planning to! Also whenever Perry and his gang moved from one city in The Other Normal World and also to our Earth, a two page header with the name of the city/world they are in is added. I really liked that because it felt like the book was divided in sections. Also we get to see a map that Ada has with her where I referred to it multiple times to see where they are exactly. All in all The Other Normals isn't just a novel, it is an adventure. Perry was a great companion on this adventure and I really enjoyed Ned Vizzini's writing. I honestly hope he writes more humorous young adult novels because I could not stop laughing while reading The Other Normals. I would definitely suggest it to all YA readers because this novel isn't like any YA novel I've read before.

Aylee

In short: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini is the most hilarious book I've read this year.


Hands up if you've ever wished you could visit a fantasy world that you've always dreamed about seeing in real life. I know I would offer up my first born to be able to go to Hogwarts (kidding, of course...). So I was very envious of The Other Normals' unusual hero, Peregrine "Perry" Eckert, when he finds out that the alternate world he has been obsessing over from his Creatures & Caverns rulebook (a play on Dungeons & Dragons) is a real place that he can visit. What a fun concept! Seriously every nerd's dream.

Having never read anything by Ned Vizzini before, I can't speak to whether all his books have a similar tone, but The Other Normals was BEYOND hilarious and the humour was absolutely the highlight of the book for me. It definitely takes the prize for funniest book I've read this year. That awkward moment when you're reading something funny in public and you burst out laughing causing everyone in the vicinity to stare at you strangely? Be prepared for a lot of that if you read The Other Normals in public. Everything about the world Ned Vizzini created was just silly and ridiculous and brilliant.

Most of the humour is derived from protagonist Perry's interaction with other characters and his approach to various situations. He is without a doubt the most geeky and socially awkward character I have ever read about and Ned Vizzini utilizes these characteristics to maximum comic effect. In other circumstances, I might be annoyed by how ridiculously blundering Perry can be, but Ned Vizzini manages to endear him to the reader, creating a very sweet and charming character. It was nice seeing Perry finally take hold of his life and live it to the fullest.

I will say that I thought the world building and concept was pretty sketchy and riddled with plot holes, but I realize that criticism is not entirely fair. The Other Normals isn't a book that is meant to be taken too seriously. I definitely recommend The Other Normals to anyone looking for just a fun, nonserious read to pass the time. A fast pace, tons of quick witted dialogue, and really short chapters will ensure that you speed through it in no time. I believe it is also a standalone. If ever I'm craving another genuinely funny book, I will be sure to turn to Ned Vizzini's novels first.

Jamie

Considering that my tastes have been heading towards fantasy as of late (I've just consumed Graceling and Fire, not to mention my love of The Guild), I needed a break from the depressing kind of YA realism I've been overdosing on. This book was a perfect balance between realism and fantasy, straddling both genres in a fresh way.

Karielle at Books à la Mode

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini
Release Date: September 25th, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Page Count: 387
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review

I've been a Ned Vizzini fan since way way back. I recall purchasing a first edition hardcover copy of Be More Chill at a school book fair the moment it hit the shelves; reveling in his next release, It's Kind of a Funny Story; and the pride/nostalgia/elation I felt when I discovered the latter had been turned into a movie.

So I was a little more than excited to try his newest, The Other Normals, which is for a slightly different audience, but regardless full of his typical teen angst (see what I did there?) and literally laugh-out-loud-able humor. Many thanks to Ned for the ARC!

The book could read middle grade because of the high-fantasy elements that teenagers might rather roll their eyes at, as well as Perry's inexplicable dorkiness — though it is the essence of his character, which I absolutely loved — but the content is more mature: a bit of mild swearing, sexuality, and just plain giggle-worthy inappropriateness... giggle-worthingly inappropriate for middle-grade boys, that is (penis jokes, anyone?). Nothing offensive to me obviously, but I can imagine some parents disapproving. On the other hand, it's extremely child-friendly. The Other Normals is the kind of book you want your children to stay away from, but whose story you don't want them to miss out on. Honestly, if you're a parent reading this, just be a cool mom/dad and hand it over to your kid. So what if they learn more than a few ways to name the male genitalia? The deep recesses of a teenage boy's mind are bound to contain far more incriminating thoughts.

Plot-wise, it contains that classical Vizzinian magical realism (classical to Be More Chill, anyway) and never gets boring. I was stunned by the span of creativity that's portrayed; Perry's adventure, and subsequently, Vizzini's imagination, is endless! The teleportation, the nefarious villains, the odd and enchanting array of introduced creatures, the geekiness, the underground adventures — such a thrill of a read! The world of Other Normals and the concept of correspondents are both novel and intriguing; brilliant and yet at the same time, somewhat devastating. I really couldn't get enough of them.

One thing was slightly off, though. While often-hilarious anecdotes pertaining to growing up, family, the perplexing female species, and just regular daily observances are picked up on, I feel at times, there are too many attempted stretches of humor. Maybe my sense of humor itself has evolved over the years, but I feel The Other Normals wasn't as remarkable because it doesn't possess the entertainment factor Vizzini's other works have. I constantly wondered if he was desperate for ideas to make kids laugh... because some of it is just not funny, as if he's trying too hard. The story, I loved — it's original, it's grand, it's marvelous. The tone however, is just stiff. I was slightly disappointed.

That being said, overall, I'm glad I got to try this new side of Ned Vizzini. It's definitely unlike his previous works, but enjoyable nonetheless. It's one of those books that are for reluctant readers: fast-paced, action-packed, and funny; more like a comic book or movie without images, something middle-grade boys will enjoy because they'll be able to relate to it best, but girls will still be able to find humor and insight within. Combining a fresh, believable voice with deep discoveries about interpersonal relationships and adolescent identity, The Other Normals is a wild escape from reality I both applaud and recommend. It's hard to make a children's book profound, yet still appealing, but Vizzini, as always, does it seamlessly.

Stephanie Loves: "I look at the stars ... they force you to think in a different direction."

Radical Rating: 7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable.

John

Terrific Young Fantasy Novel from Ned Vizzini

One of our finest American chroniclers of adolescent angst in nonfiction and fiction, Ned Vizzini, has written one of the most compellingly readable and imaginative works of fiction published this year that, I promise, will thrill children of all ages; "The Other Normals". It is a bold, brash, quite imaginative, look at adolescent male bonding and blossoming sexual interest between the sexes masquerading as a cleverly plotted sword and sorcery fantasy that is light years removed from J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series. Fans of Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" and "The Magician King" will find much to admire in Vizzini's fantasy debut, from his realistic depiction of adolescent life in the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood of Bensonhurst and the relatively remote Camp Washiska Lake to the parallel Earth inhabited by the "Other Normals"; a world that resembles a crazy patchwork quilt of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth and C. S. Lewis' Narnia that is still uniquely Vizzini's own and among the finest recent examples I have encountered of memorable world-building in fantasy and science fiction literature. However, one doesn't need to admire any of Lev Grossman's excellent fantasy literature to realize that Vizzini's creation is, to quote Lev Grossman, "wildly imaginative, incredibly funny, and weirdly wise". "The Other Normals" is an especially memorable ode to sword and sorcery games and to teenage geeks everywhere; readers will identify with and recognize themselves in fifteen-year old Peregrine "Perry" Eckhart, who is so obsessed with his sword and sorcery role-playing game "Creatures & Caverns" that he finds himself relying on it as though it is a sacred text through his hazardous treks on the "Other Normal" Earth with the likes of "Other Normals" such as Mortin Enaw and Ada Ember, whom he regards as far more beautiful and fascinating than any of the adolescent girls he knows in camp, helping them save their version of Earth from impending doom. Anyone seriously interested in taking a fresh look at fantasy literature shouldn't hesitate in adding Vizzini's latest to their list; "The Other Normals" is destined to be remembered and celebrated as a contemporary classic of fantasy, ranking alongside the best from Lev Grossman, Philip Pullman and especially, J. K. Rowling.

Topics