Genre: Teen/ Ya
For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her autistic sister happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Maddy meets Albert, the last thing on her mind is falling in love.
Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. But then he meets Maddy, and gets a glimpse of what being part of a functioning family can be like – and the tremendous sacrifices people will make for the ones they love.
But are Maddy and Albert willing to make the biggest of sacrifices for each other? Some things, they are about to discover, are outside of their control . . .
Differently Normal is a love story with the biggest of hearts. It shows us that anyone can find love, and anyone has the capacity to love, even when the odds are stacked against them.
My verdict: A beautiful love story about the impact of caring for a loved one with special needs. Ultimately we see Maddy’s struggle with wanting her own life but is worried that her mum won’t be able to manage to care for her sister alone. At the start of the book maddy acts more like a parent than her own mother and often hides behind sarcasm and an overall surly demeanour when interacting with anyone other than her little sister. Slowly through her relationship with Albert we see see her walls come down and begins to confide in Albert in her worries for the future. Slowly throughout the novel Maddy realises sh3 uses her personal circumstances as an excuse when ultimately she is scared to take risks for fear of rejection.
Albert is the epitome of a true gentleman who has a very relaxed attitude towards life and almost comes across asa bohemian when compared to his misogynistic father and brother. They see his kindness as a weakness and his passion for horses and surfing as a disappointment feeling that he should be a police officer.
Despite his volatile relationship with his family he remains positive and appreciative especially towards his mother and finds Maddy’s commitments honourable and understands he worries but at the same time encourages her to take time for herself and that’s how their relationship blossoms.
The pair bond over their complicated relationships and both support one another despite Albert’s father deeming Maddy unsuitable.
This story reminded me of Romeo and Juliet and fans of John Green will enjoy this emotional rollercoaster with the author tackling issues towards young carers as well as people with special needs and on the flip side, shows what it’s like growing up in a misogynistic household and the subtle traits of a coercive and controlling relationship.
Finally the author shows us how important family are and that it’s never too late to start living life. A cleverly written novel that has the right balance of empathy and sympathy and at the same time their are always ups and downs when a loved one has special needs and that it’s not always doom and gloom like the media tends to portray. Whilst it’s nice to feature characters with disabilities this isn’t a book solely about someone with a disability but a love story, showing the compromises and sacrifices a caregiver and sibling has to make.
I also want to thank Ms Robinson for not portraying a stereotypical autistic person but someone cheeky and happy, even if 99% of the time they are in their own bubble. This book shows what it’s like to live with someone who has echolia, food aversions and seizures and the positivity impact horse riding therapy can have.