The Other Normals

Common Sense Media says

Misfit gamer learns to connect in quirky dual-world fantasy.

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

The Other Normals tips its hat to some current theories about multiple universes, but little effort is made to rationalize the evolution of the World of the Other Normals. The educational aspects of the novel lie in the questions it raises about how to behave honorably and earn your peers' respect.

Positive messages

It's possible to earn your peers' respect while maintaining your own sense of responsibility and fair play. There's also a strong message about the importance of developing real-life connections, especially for those who spend a lot of time dwelling in a world of fantasy gaming.

Positive role models

At the start of The Other Normals, Perry Eckert is an alienated "late bloomer" who's obsessed with fantasy gaming and confused about to how to develop real-life friendships. After he's transported to the World of the Other Normals and sees the correspondence between his actions there and developments in the human world, he learns to take responsibility for his own happiness and the welfare of his friends and family.

Violence

A number of violent encounters in both realistic and otherworldly settings. Most of the incidents are neither graphic nor disturbing, just the usual fantasy weapons-play. A couple of incidents do result in the injury or even death of sympathetic supporting characters, but they lend the story a necessary thematic weight.

Sex

Still on the brink of puberty, 15-year-old Perry is preoccupied with the idea of sex, even if his understanding of it is alternately naive and flat-out wrong. At one point, he exposes himself at a camp dance, an incident that's more pathetic and humiliating than creepy. There's a scene in a brothel where Perry's tempted by a half-human prostitute, but that encounter goes awry before anything happens. There's talk of pubic hair growth, spontaneous erections, and breast development, but no sexual activity beyond an awkward attempt at a kiss.

Language

Fairly salty but neither gratuitous nor unrealistic, given the setting and circumstances. One or two uses each of the most common curse words and profanities, from "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bitch" to "f--k" and "motherf--ker."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Except for one regrettable night of getting drunk on wine, Perry abstains from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. But his older brother indulges in all three. In the World of the Other Normals, Perry encounters characters who drink too much and are addicted to smoking quartz crystals.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Other Normals is a fast-paced coming-of-age fantasy with a hip, humorous sensibility. Perry, the 15-year-old protagonist, is a misfit obsessed with gaming, achieving puberty, and learning about girls. His narration is occasionally salty, with one or two uses each of the most common curse words and profanities, from "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bitch" to "f--k" and "motherf--ker." Perry's older brother has a problem with drugs and alcohol, and Perry himself gets drunk on wine in one scene. There's some violence, mostly of the swordplay variety, but a couple of intense battles result in death and serious injury. Sex is often on Perry's mind, and there's talk of pubic hair growth, spontaneous erections, and breast development, but no sexual activity beyond an awkward attempt at a kiss. Perry exposes himself at a camp dance in one funny yet mortifying scene. 

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What's the story?

Sent against his will to a summer camp where he's a clear misfit, fantasy gaming fan Perry Eckert is desperate to escape before he's humiliated and assaulted any further. When he meets Mortin Enaw, a strange visitor from the World of Other Normals, Perry's catapulted into another universe, where he becomes part of a quest to save a legendary princess and prevent widespread chaos. As he comes to realize that his nerdish enthusiasms have prepared him well for his new role as a warrior, Perry begins to see that his actions in either realm affect the other -- and that he must behave with a greater sense of responsibility.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE OTHER NORMALS finds new ways to use familiar coming-of-age and epic fantasy elements to create an engaging, enjoyable, and often wise adventure about growing up, fitting in, and learning to deal with adversity. Perry Eckert's narrative voice is quirky and funny, and his adventures in both realities are well realized, suspenseful, and well observed.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it feels like to be a "late bloomer" and how to become more relaxed about making friends and fitting in. What are good ways to get to know someone of the opposite sex? What types of behavior are seen as positive?

  • What other books or movies have you encountered that explore the idea of an alternate universe? 

  • Why are kids who enjoy games like Dungeons & Dragons sometimes ostracized by their peers?

Book details

Author:Ned Vizzini
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:September 25, 2012
Number of pages:400
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of The Other Normals was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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