The New Normal - YA Review by AJ

Reader: AJ G
Age: 17
Title: The New Normal
Author: Ashley Little
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Pub Date: 3/1/13
Galley: Yes
Top 25: No
Convince us to read the book: I thought that there were several issues with this book, the first being character voice. I found it incredibly hard to connect with Tamar, which tends to make me more disengaged as a reader.  I think it was just her extreme factual-ness. Even when she was experiencing deep emotions, it was just written in a very shallow manner. The second problem I found was that Tamar develops in a very sudden, jerky sort of way. One minute boys are gross, the next she wants to kiss a boy. There's no lead-up to the change in her thinking or personality. The third issue is that the 'happily ever after' ending is really rushed. The author didn't spend enough time painting the happy ending for us with words. It just kinda cuts off, like in a classic fairy tale. "They all lived happily ever after, the end." I find that particularly irksome seeing as Tamar and her family go through a lot in the two hundred some pages, and I want to know what happens to them.
Memorable or Forgettable: Well, this is the only book I've read where the main character had alopecia. It's also the only book I've read where they never name the serious illness that the main character is struck with. Additionally, in most cases like that, one would seek professional attention and help, right? Well not Tamar. Apparently she's just too stoic, even though other, much more mundane things completely shake her. Since one of the central conflicts in the story is her losing her hair, I feel she takes it much too lightly for me to really sympathize or care all that much. The other really memorable thing was that all character descriptions were just hair, or occasionally hair AND eyes.
Cover:  I think the cover is fairly visually appealing. It's certainly minimalist, which I like. But I feel that it didn't do the best job of reflecting the story. Losing the hair on her head is a bigger deal to Tamar than losing her eyelashes, so maybe a wig would've been better. Or a bald girl, since the biggest thing is learning to accept her new lack of hair. I can see how that might be harder to sell, but I think it could look just as stunning, and be more reflective of the book.
Age Range: 14 through 17
Quality: 2Q Needs more work
Popularity: 3P Some teen appeal
Additional Comments: It bothered me intensely that she referred to her mom and dad as "the parents." Additionally, I think that the relationship aspect was simultaneously over- and underworked.
Annotation:  Tamar is like your average teenager. Except her problems are real. She just lost her younger sisters in a car accident, and now she's losing her hair. What else could the universe possibly throw at her, and how will she inevitably work it into her new normal?

tags:  alopecia / ya lit

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