Review by Katy
Sally Rooney has become a hit on Booktok, and after seeing many glowing reviews, her novels have been on my reading list for at least the past year. I was browsing one afternoon when I saw that her novel Normal People was available in audiobook format, so I checked it out. I soon found out why her books are so widely beloved.
The book opens with a conversation between the two main characters, Connell and Marianne. They both attend the same high school, but they come from two different worlds. Connell’s mother is the hired cleaner for Marianne’s upper-class family, and he is there waiting to pick her up to take her home. Despite Marianne’s wealth, she is an outcast at school, though she exhibits little regard for how others perceive her. Connell, on the other hand, cares deeply about how his classmates perceive him and is considered popular at school. Despite their differences, Connell and Marianne develop a secret, guarded relationship that spans the course of the book, following them to college, through life changes, on and off, through different partners and stages of their lives. Time and time again, Connell and Marianne find themselves in the same circles, sometimes under improbable circumstances, coming together only to drift apart again. Throughout the novel, their individual storylines are developed, allowing the reader glimpses into their lives as they grow from teenagers to young adults, into the most private depths of their minds as they navigate the world outside of the small town where they were raised. In my opinion, the beauty of this book was found in the fact that the circumstances that Connell and Marianne found themselves in were not at all extraordinary but rather mundane. Their thoughts and actions felt incredibly human, especially as a young adult myself who only recently experienced the evolution from adolescence that they go through in the novel.
This quiet, subtle novel has stuck with me for weeks after reading. I would recommend it, especially in Audiobook format, as I felt that I gained an even deeper understanding of the character’s voices through the storytelling of the narrator.