Title: How to be a Normal Person
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 290 Pages
At a Glance: I love so hard that this book exists.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.
Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.
Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.
But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Review: So, I just finished my first TJ Klune book – *waits for massive collective gasp to die down* – and, it was…utterly fantastic. It was so fantastic that I had to immediately go back in and read several passages over again. It was so fantastic that I have a strong feeling that even if I had read other TJ Klune books, this one would still be my favorite. I loved this book like crazy – for so many reasons.
First of all – there’s Gus. Gustavo Tiberius is “abnormal and weird and strange.” And, that’s what makes him so perfect. Gus has never left Abby, Oregon, was best friends with his dad, and is pretty outspoken about his aversion to people and basically any social situation. One of the things that instantly endeared Gus to me was that he reminded me a lot of my son, who is also a giant bag of awesome quirks; I loved him more with every page.
Next, there’s Casey. New in town, and working at his aunt’s coffee shop, Casey is instantly smitten when he meets Gus. Casey is an asexual stoner hipster. This description – repeated many times throughout the book – cracked me up every time. In fact, the word hipster is in the book eighty-one times. Now, most people probably have an idea what a hipster is… but, in case you might find it helpful, here you go…Hipster, as defined by Urban Dictionary: Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter… Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. According to Gus, Casey and his friends definitely fit this bill – and, initially, Gus is NOT impressed.
Though Gus is outraged at first about Lottie not telling him about her nephew, he quickly finds himself unable to stop thinking about Casey, and, in fact, wanting to change himself for the other man. Wanting to be “normal”. So, where does he head for help? The internet, of course! Oh, man…the website he finds and decides to use as his go-to for the voice of “normal” is beyond hilarious. There were several times where I couldn’t even fathom what I was reading, and was terrified at what advice Gus would take to heart next!
Somehow, though, simply by being his own amazing self, the boy that Pastor Tommy raised, Gus finds a way to make it work with Casey. He manages to connect with Casey, even though intimacy is difficult for them both for different reasons. He learns a lot about himself in the process, and begins to really heal and find happiness again after the devastating loss of his father.
I have to say something quickly about Pastor Tommy…I don’t know if there ever has been a time when I loved a character so damn much who wasn’t even in the book. We get to know him through a series of scenes from Gus’s memory, and he became so real to me, so amazing, that I could feel the pain from his loss. Some of them were funny of course – how can there not be humor with an old hippie stoner raising a kid? – but mostly they were beautifully heartwarming and moving, the last few even bringing tears to my eyes. Pastor Tommy was a kickass dad.
And, now we’ve come to the ‘this-review-is-getting-soooo-long-and-there-are-too-many-fantastic-things-to-mention’ montage. So, here we go…more epic things you would miss out on if you didn’t read this book…Stoner Scrabble…a ferret called Harry S. Truman…Gus handling Casey’s friends like a boss…a Vespa gang who are possible lesbian sister-lovers…a know-it-all inspirational calendar…and, again, Pastor Tommy.
There were so many layers to this story; it was equal parts hilarious, touching, informative (heh), and romantic. I’m sure there will be some out there who will say, “There’s no sex. How can there be romance?” There is TONS of romance. It may be even more romantic because there is no sex. Casey and Gus are completely swoon-worthy.
I don’t know how TJ Klune ever got through this manuscript. I know some authors go through the same emotions while writing that we go through while reading – in this case: hysterical laughter, eye rolling, swooning, and tears, to name just a handful – which must have made writing this one an adventure and a joy. I know reading it sure was. I love so hard that this book exists.
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