We Are Totally Normal
Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?From Rahul Kanakia comes a raw and deeply felt story about rejecting labels, seeking connection, and finding yourself.

We Are Totally Normal Details

TitleWe Are Totally Normal
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 31st, 2020
PublisherHarper Teen
Rating
GenreLGBT, Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, GLBT, Queer

We Are Totally Normal Review

  • Anniek
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the most problematic books I've read in a while, and I'm so mad about it.EDIT: Look, the author and a few other people have said that the MC and the love interest do end up together and that it is a queer book. I'm really not out here to spread misinformation, so I wanted to clear up how I read it. The main character in this book was so manipulative and mistreated the 'love interest' throughout the entire book. Throughout the book, he constantly says that he's actually straight This is one of the most problematic books I've read in a while, and I'm so mad about it.EDIT: Look, the author and a few other people have said that the MC and the love interest do end up together and that it is a queer book. I'm really not out here to spread misinformation, so I wanted to clear up how I read it. The main character in this book was so manipulative and mistreated the 'love interest' throughout the entire book. Throughout the book, he constantly says that he's actually straight and that he just wanted attention and to get closer to the girls in the book. He says he's "restraightened" by the end. Those comments felt like the truest ones in the book to me. And so I read the ending as: okay, he's just going to go on pretending now, because he liked the attention when people thought he was queer.EDIT 2: I'm not saying questioning rep is not valid. I would never say that. I've been personally questioning my own sexuality and gender for years now. It's a mess. It's confusing. If this book helped you with that, I'm truly glad for that. I'm not out to cancel a book, especially not a book by a marginalized author. I just wanted to bring some attention to the fact that in my opinion, this book didn't deal with questioning rep at all, because the main character keeps saying he's pretending in a really manipulative way. I think that's really harmful for potential readers, and that's why I wanted to address it.EDIT 3. Seeing how much this review has blown up, I want to make one final edit. This review should never have gotten this much attention. I am a white queer person reviewing this book and talking about how it personally affected me. It can be true that this book both hurt me and is important for queer people of colour at the same time. Just because the book was harmful to me, doesn't mean it will be harmful to everyone. My review certainly does not speak for everyone. Intersectionality is a really important aspect here, and that's why I ask you to take the time to also read reviews by QPOC, like the ones linked here: CW's review and Shri's review.This book immediately wasn't off to a good start for me. I found it very sexist and predatory towards the girls in the book, and I just have no patience for that. I also immediately disliked one of the MC's friends, he was such a bully. These weren't my main problems, though.The book was also just very poorly written. Overall, I felt like it didn't give enough context. It was hard to follow the sequence of events, and the writing style felt very forced and awkward. This was still not my main problem, though.My main problem is this. Before you start this book, you need to know it's not the queer coming-of-age story it's advertized to be. Instead, we spend a whole book following the main character as he's physically repulsed when kissing another guy, but questioning his sexuality anyway. It ends with the main character concluding that he is, in fact, straight.Now, I'm not saying it's not a good thing to question your sexuality, even when you end up realizing you're not queer. I'm just saying this went about it in a completely wrong way. It all just felt really insensitive, and I didn't think it was handled well at all. At the end, the MC ends up saying he's "restraightened". Honestly? It felt like this book was making fun of queer coming-of-age stories. It was a manipulative clusterfuck of a book and I hated every second. I guess I can see how this could have been a really profound novel about questioning and labels and identity, and just the confusion of figuring out who you are. But this was all so badly handled, and I read so many outright problematic statements.Why did I think it was all so badly handled? Because this is not actually a book about a main character questioning his sexuality. Instead, it's a book about the main character pretending to question his sexuality to get closer to a girl. Basically, he admits to having pretended to be queer so he could get closer to a girl he liked. Here's the quote: "Part of me thinks, I don't know - maybe - perhaps I did this to get closer to Avani [the ex-girlfriend]. Like, like, like, I wanted to be her friend. And this was the only way to get past her guard." He later says the same thing to Dave (the 'love interest'), and he confirms that he already knew and that it isn't a big deal. How fucked up is that? It was such a predatory thing to read, 'let me pretend I'm gay so the girls will trust me'.On top of this, it's also once again a situation where we have to reiterate that labels are for identity, not action. If the main character isn't queer, it doesn't matter what he does, he isn't queer and nor is the book!It was especially hard to believe that the main character was questioning his sexuality, apart from the fact that he was actually pretending to be queer to be manipulative, because it's really hard to see the signs for that when the main character keeps saying throughout the book, from the start, that he's not actually into Dave and that he doesn't actually think he's into guys. I really fail to see how this would be questioning representation, when there aren't really any actual signs of the main character thinking he might be gay.Another problem is that the main character never seriously considers he might be bisexual. It's clear that he is into his ex-girlfriend, so to me, that would feel like a more logical conclusion if the MC would actually believe he's into guys. But this thought is never seriously entertained, and that felt a lot like erasure. It's like the MC had to determine he's either gay or straight, without considering any other options. There's also a pretty biphobic statement: "I was the most confused human being on earth! This went beyond bisexuality into seriously sick, twisted, stupid shit." This reads to me like the MC thinks bisexuality is being confused, and also that he thinks bisexuality is already a little sick, twisted and stupid. He's just personally even more so.If this actually had been a novel about an MC honestly questioning his sexuality, I would be more inclined to think he was biromantic asexual. And someone even suggests that to him, but he shoots it down immediately, "because all of that stuff just felt like words". Which feels a special kind of shitty. It goes on to imply he can't be asexual because he masturbates, which... Gotta love spreading misinformation.Actually, I would even be inclined to think the MC might be a trans girl who briefly thinks she's gay before realizing she's actually trans. Why? Because the MC keeps hinting at wanting to be like the girls in the book, and, for instance, when having sex with Dave, he doesn't just imagine himself having sex with his ex-girlfriend to get more into it, he actually imagines himself as his ex-girlfriend to get more into it. All this to say I could definitely see the potential here of a novel exploring someone's gender and sexuality, but that was just not what this book was. I thought it was all handled really poorly, if it was handled at all.And like I already said, there were so many outright problematic aspects, some of which I've already mentioned, and some of which I'll get into now. For instance, there are quite a lot of lowkey homophobic comments. One that stood out to me was the main character saying some people were just "really gay". And not because of any definition of homosexuality, but because they wore clothes that fit really well (?), had soft hair (??), and had a sort of natural grace (???). Fellas, is it gay to have fluffy hair?An actual quote from the book: "The real problem is I don't think I even like guys! It's just that sometimes I'm out with Pothan and Ken [best friends], and I'm like, This is boring. I am boring. And being gay seems like a big, shiny way of escaping it all." He then goes on to say that this (being gay) is not actually who he is, and that it's a ploy for attention. And this is at 30% in. When the MC has already said multiple times he's not into guys. I thought this particular quote was really fucked up, and this was just one example. There were multiple comments like this. I just can't.Another quote from the book: "He touched my thigh while I drove; I felt a wave of disgust that made me think, Oh, so this is what normal guys feel when another dude touches them." Excuse me? There's a lot to unpack here, from the toxic masculinity to calling straight guys "normal". Please take a moment to consider the title, and then consider that this is a book about a guy who thinks he might be gay for a while, and then realizes he's straight. Or, in the words of the author, "normal". So: We Are Totally Normal actually means We Are Totally Straight?? And straight is seen as normal?I'm terribly sorry for writing such a long, ranty and unstructured review, but I hope it was helpful. I would never tell you not to read this book, but please do so with care and please be aware of what you're getting into.
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  • Kai
    January 1, 1970
    no YOU'RE crying at the sight of this cover
  • CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
    January 1, 1970
    EDIT: My full review is now up on my blog, The Quiet Pond.Important clarification about this book: Nandan is "not straight" by the end. I have read this book, and this is completely false. Nandan is queer. (view spoiler)[He ends up with Dave! (hide spoiler)] This is a queer book. Anyway, I'm writing a full review of this as we speak.-Wow. Wow wow wow. This book is not only one of the most unique books I've read, it's also one of the most... real books on relationships, social dynamics, and EDIT: My full review is now up on my blog, The Quiet Pond.Important clarification about this book: Nandan is "not straight" by the end. I have read this book, and this is completely false. Nandan is queer. (view spoiler)[He ends up with Dave! (hide spoiler)] This is a queer book. Anyway, I'm writing a full review of this as we speak.-Wow. Wow wow wow. This book is not only one of the most unique books I've read, it's also one of the most... real books on relationships, social dynamics, and questioning sexual identity I've read.- Follows Nandan, an Indian-American teen who questions his sexual identity and develops an intimate yet hesitant relationship with Dave, an awkward Indian-American teen.- This book does not follow the conventional structure of most books where there is a clear conflict and clear resolution - which is what makes it fantastic but I can see, unfortunately, why this will turn some readers off from it (which is a shame because this book works so well as what it is).- Rather, the book is filled with intense and authentic interactions where meaning and the story's underlying substance can be found in between the lines.- The relationships in this story are incredible, and how Kanakia writes high school social structures was amazing. How some people care deeply about the power structures in high school, the inauthentic yet candid ways people stay friends with people - not because they like them but because belonging is intoxicating, and being someone who matters more so. - I'd argue this is not a romance, so don't go in thinking that this is some cute YA romance, because it isn't. This book is not pretty, but that's what makes it so... profound without trying hard to be. Nandan and Dave's relationship is at times frustrating and at times heart-warming, their dynamic dictated by Nandan's experience of questioning his identity.- To be honest, this has one of the most real depictions of sex I've read. There's nothing graphic, but the fact that sex isn't always an intimate, amazing, and mind-blowing thing? Finally, someone said it. Thank you to the author for providing me a copy of the book. This does not impact or influence my opinions of this book in any way.Trigger/content warning: (view spoiler)[anti-gay, internalised anti-queer feelings, ableist and sexist slurs, sex (not graphic), alcohol consumption (hide spoiler)]
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  • ✨ jamieson ✨
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning cover!!! gay content !! ownvoices author !!! you love to see it !!
  • Mariah
    January 1, 1970
    If this keeps up, imagine how magical it'll be to walk into bookstores 5 or 10 years from now and seeing homosexual couples on book covers as often as you see hetersexual ones.
  • anna (½ of readsrainbow)
    January 1, 1970
    a book by a QPOC: *exists*book twt: ahh yes!! time to take a few lines, strip them of context & bash the whole book based on them, without ever reading it ourselves!!!
  • andrea ✨
    January 1, 1970
    all these gay books with the same-ish style of beautifully drawn covers are coming out in the near-ish future and i am heRE fOR iT.
  • shri (sunandchai)
    January 1, 1970
    Read the full review here on my blog! First of all, I want to thank HarperTeen for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.Second of all, I read this book in about an hour and a half. I was stuck on a flight from Philadelphia to Minneapolis and intended on sleeping for most of it because I was sleep deprived as hell after a really long week, and I completely forgot to sleep on that flight. I forgot to recline my seat. I barely heard the flight attendant ask me if I wanted Read the full review here on my blog! First of all, I want to thank HarperTeen for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.Second of all, I read this book in about an hour and a half. I was stuck on a flight from Philadelphia to Minneapolis and intended on sleeping for most of it because I was sleep deprived as hell after a really long week, and I completely forgot to sleep on that flight. I forgot to recline my seat. I barely heard the flight attendant ask me if I wanted something to drink. And when I landed in Minneapolis, I rushed to my next terminal–not to catch my connecting flight, but to sit down as quickly as possible because I needed to cry.We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia is not a romance, despite what its gorgeous cover may indicate. Neither is it a typical contemporary YA coming-of-age story either. Of course, it encompasses both of these elements, but there is one big aspect that sets it apart from the rest of these genres–this book remembers how to be a teenager.Seriously, I relived my life from 13-18 years old all in one sitting, and it shook me to the core.Normally, I review books with the criteria of Plot, Characters, Setting/Worldbuilding, and Writing Style. However, I’m not going to do that here because this template is just not appropriate for this kind of book. Instead, I’m going to break We Are Totally Normal into its overarching themes and discuss how Kanakia’s execution of each one lent itself to the uniqueness of We Are Totally Normal.
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  • AJ
    January 1, 1970
    I am always here for queer South Asian MCs
  • Sophie Elaina
    January 1, 1970
    Im rather disappointed. This was really not what I was expecting at all. There were some very problematic elements regarding the way the main character treats other people in addition to some very clear instances of sexism and manipulation. At times I could see the good shining through and honestly understand what the author was attempting to do. It was extremely honest, to the point of making this one of the most uncomfortable reading experiences Ive ever had. And I did feel like that meant for I’m rather disappointed. This was really not what I was expecting at all. There were some very problematic elements regarding the way the main character treats other people in addition to some very clear instances of sexism and manipulation. At times I could see the good shining through and honestly understand what the author was attempting to do. It was extremely honest, to the point of making this one of the most uncomfortable reading experiences I’ve ever had. And I did feel like that meant for an excellent conversation starter. However to round this off the protagonist in my opinion should have had more of a realisation or understanding of what he had done wrong or at least think about what he could’ve done better. But that was where this was lacking. The protagonist continuously takes advantage of other people’s feelings in order to forward his own social standing. He admits that he decided to come out in order to get attention and fit better into the popular group. And often his thoughts ponder over the fact he enjoys the social ramifications and will continue to lie about his feelings in order to develop a closer relationship with some of the girls. This is not something I can look over or explain away in any possible way. The pressure of society in no way should then pressure anyone to say or do anything or act any sort of way, but I can see how it does. However the behaviour this character portrays is on a complete level of his own. This book has one of the most insensitive portrayals of a lgbtq+ relationship I’ve ever read from an own voices author. I just don’t know that this is something someone questioning their gender or sexuality should read, I really feel as though it could be harmful and it’s not something I would’ve wanted to read when I was a teenager.‘He touched my leg while I drove; I felt a wave of disgust that made me think, oh, so this is what normal guys feel when another dude touches them.’ So if we’re not straight we’re abnormal? This is just one of the instances where the word choice really should’ve been thought over. The flippant way ‘normal’ is used in this context is extremely frustrating and hurtful. And now the title of the book ‘We Are Totally Normal’ really doesn’t sit right with me. (I understand that this could be a way of saying no one is normal, therefore everyone is normal, but paired with the way word choice is used in the book, this isn’t well done). Also, fair enough if someone isn’t always into someone else, but there was no need for the amount of times the word disgust was used in this book.Possible Spoilers Ahead!I know the author has stated that this is queer and that it has a ‘happy ending’, however Nandan in my opinion didn’t read like someone denying their inner feelings. He read like someone taking other peoples feelings for granted and using them in a very dishonest way, while all the time truly believing that he is straight. And the ending didn’t quell any of those thoughts for me, I still felt like he was pretending in his relationship and the way this was written was the primary reason I felt like this. If it was more clear that Nandan was a very unreliable narrator then I wouldn’t have taken his thoughts to heart. But once again there was no realisation that he was denying his feelings, and so I took them at face value. I hate to call out bad writing but I honestly feel like this was too short and the way this was written meant for a bad experience. Either that or my arc had a lot of missing pages. I honestly wish I had stopped reading this half way through an imagined a better progressive end to the story.In conclusion, I know some people will probably really love what this book does and have a completely different take away from it than I did. Life’s messy and uncomfortable and that is very much what this book is. But I’m sad to say it wasn’t the book for me and I just want to leave a warning and let you know to be aware that there are problematic things in this book if you’re going to read it.
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  • Lydia Gompper
    January 1, 1970
    This book spoke to every socially anxious, over-analytic, self-conscious, bisexual thought high school me ever had. It was nuanced. It didn't spell everything out for the reader, because Nandan was having trouble spelling things out for himself. He's uncertain. He's juggling intricate, fraught social dynamics. And his sexuality is something that he's equal parts confused about and constantly aware of as a piece of social currency (but that awareness, in and of itself, is something he finds This book spoke to every socially anxious, over-analytic, self-conscious, bisexual thought high school me ever had. It was nuanced. It didn't spell everything out for the reader, because Nandan was having trouble spelling things out for himself. He's uncertain. He's juggling intricate, fraught social dynamics. And his sexuality is something that he's equal parts confused about and constantly aware of as a piece of social currency (but that awareness, in and of itself, is something he finds shameful about himself). This isn't a book filled with dramatic realizations; it's a bit meandering, a bit back-and-forth, a bit frustrating in exactly the way high school itself was. I'll freely admit this isn't the book for everybody. It doesn't have all that much of a plot, for one thing. Things happen, and things change, and people get together and go to parties and have sex and gossip and argue, but ultimately there's a sense of whatever-ness about it all. The romance, certainly, wasn't anything like the all-encompassing, soul-mate-ish relationships we often see in YA. In fact, the book wasn't really a romance at all, but a character study. And for me, that was a plus. It felt like a real chunk of an actual teenager's life. I loved Nandan. So much of what he's worrying about in this book is stuff I labored over as a teen (though, if I'm being honest, he and I sat at distinctly different places in our schools' social hierarchy). I wanted the best for him, but most of all I wanted to see him grow. To become better. To be freer. His voice was so smartly executed, both totally self-aware and frustratingly blind. He was funny. He was youthful. He was flawed and likeable and so, so freshly crafted. But almost as smart as Nandan's characterization was the depiction of the social dynamics of high school. This book just saw the truth of social interaction in a way that went beyond clichés, beyond cliques, beyond the basics of leaders and followers and friend groups. There was shifting power, the subtle importance of a single word. Everyone trying, but trying not to look like they were trying. People who had that certain something that made everyone their friend, and people who had even more of it. Kanakia writes high school in a way that's true. Absolutely, insightfully true.Also, We Are Totally Normal contains this line, which is pure brilliance:"If there's one thing I knew about the world, it's that I could never have a conversation with someone who says 'the data are' instead of 'the data is.'"Twitter | Bookstagram
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  • Layla (Between the Lines)
    January 1, 1970
    *Please do not let my star rating dissuade you from reading this book. It simply was not my cup of tea. I am Kurdish and queer and a big mess in general, but there are QPOC who feel the complete opposite way I feel. This story might be exactly what you need to read right now.I am so genuinely happy that others can identify with the characters in this story. Every queer story that gets published gives me a little more hope--hope that one day we will all be able to see parts of ourselves in the *Please do not let my star rating dissuade you from reading this book. It simply was not my cup of tea. I am Kurdish and queer and a big mess in general, but there are QPOC who feel the complete opposite way I feel. This story might be exactly what you need to read right now.I am so genuinely happy that others can identify with the characters in this story. Every queer story that gets published gives me a little more hope--hope that one day we will all be able to see parts of ourselves in the books we read. I am still waiting for something to come along that reflects my own journey in fluidity (and the internal conflict that always follows), but this did not resonate with me in the way I hoped. My feelings were hurt by some of the comments made by the characters but I understand that these things may not hurt others. For that reason, I have removed my previous review where I called this book "problematic". After some introspection, I have realized that my reading experience would have been different and possibly more enjoyable had I been aware of the book's content beforehand.Thank you again to HCC Frenzy for sending me an ARC of this book.
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  • Fari
    January 1, 1970
    3.5* rounding up this time Thank you to hccfrenzy at harpercanada for providing me with an arc to review !The MC does not decide he is straight in the end! Everybody truly took one reviewers interpretation of the book and completely ran with it, huh? Its so, so unfair to read one white reviewers take on a book saying its problematic and in turn slander the author and say nobody should read this and give it one star before its even released. Please read more QPOCs reviews of the book, including 3.5* rounding up this time Thank you to hccfrenzy at harpercanada for providing me with an arc to review !The MC does not decide he is straight in the end! Everybody truly took one reviewer’s interpretation of the book and completely ran with it, huh? It’s so, so unfair to read one white reviewer’s take on a book saying it’s problematic and in turn slander the author and say nobody should read this and give it one star before it’s even released. Please read more QPOC’s reviews of the book, including those who loved it, hated it or are down the middle of the road like me.Now onto the review. I think this can be a very uncomfortable read. Nandan truly has some shit to work through and maybe doesn’t treat everybody fairly. But also, it’s so interesting and rewarding to see such unfiltered thoughts. Toward the start of the book, Nandan mentions someone is ‘very gay’ and mentions very stereotypical reasons for it and that made me genuinely deeply uncomfortable but also, I’m certain every single one of us has had thoughts that are homophobic/transphobic/racist/ableist/colourist or other because it’s so ingrained in us. It’s an active job to unlearn stereotypes or hatred. Seeing into someone’s mind is always going to be messy and it’s fair to be uncomfortable with that but it reflects reality. This became unrelated to the book but wow, that part made me think so much after I’d finished reading. I don’t think the author endorsed stereotypes but rather acknowledge that they very much exist in our culture and every single person buys into them, even a little. Nandan is in denial throughout the book. Many queer people tell themselves the lie that they are, in fact, straight and cis. Nandan insisting he’s straight was genuinely one of the most relatable things for me. I felt like an imposter, like ‘yep maybe i’m faking it bc i just wanna fit in’ which made absolutely 0 sense bc i can’t actually tell anybody and it’s dangerous and there was nowhere for me to fit into lamao me sitting there convincing myself i’m str8 was . a time. And seeing Nandan basically do the same thing was sad and relatable and hilarious in a sad and relatable way and it really, really hurt to see that aspect trashed so thoroughly. There are a few things that I don’t have many thoughts on anymore but i’d written down while reading: - very interesting how the straight girls love the gay best friend shit but also the queer girl and her girlfriend are sidelined- Nandan’s interest in hanging out with his ex gf was so interesting to me and I feel like i couldn’t completely understand the nuance but it reminded me of how gay dudes can sometimes be more inclined to have women as friends or run in their circles? idk idk - this book was messy and it’s meant to be but sometimes it felt like it wasn't purposeful? but also that’s how real life is. but also this is a novel and it made me lose interest if i couldn’t figure out why a character was doing things or their motivations - i didn’t really care about or like any of the characters. I was in high school a year ago and would have be friends with none of them (maybe Dave? hm) All in all, I very much identified with aspects of Nandan’s identity and questioning. Questioning your identity is confusing and messy and some aspects can be deemed problematic to some but it still makes people who they are and just . give it a chance instead of being filled with hate over one damn review.———————————————————————-not only is there a gay couple on the cover, the MC is South Asian! Written someone named Rahul, so common in my world but rare to see on a cover like this. i haven’t even read the book but my closeted ass just might burst into tears
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  • Kacen Callender
    January 1, 1970
    I LOVE this book. It was so complicated and messy and vulnerable and real, and I love Nandan and Dave so much! Rahul Kanakia perfectly captures the realistic complications and vulnerability of questioning identity, attraction, and relationships. Told with a refreshing pitch-perfect teen voice and through the eyes of one of the most endearing and real characters Ive ever met, We Are Totally Normal is validating, entertaining, and filled with love. I really recommend this for anyone who has ever I LOVE this book. It was so complicated and messy and vulnerable and real, and I love Nandan and Dave so much! Rahul Kanakia perfectly captures the realistic complications and vulnerability of questioning identity, attraction, and relationships. Told with a refreshing pitch-perfect teen voice and through the eyes of one of the most endearing and real characters I’ve ever met, We Are Totally Normal is validating, entertaining, and filled with love. I really recommend this for anyone who has ever questioned identity, because this was one of the most realistic and validating and vulnerable descriptions I've seen of how complicated it can be. I see some other reviewers saying that there was no plot, and I can really only assume that they're people who haven't questioned identity in the way that Nandan has. The plot is subtle, but the goal of learning who he is and whether he can fit in with his identity and how his relationships with others factor into his identity and his arc of not allowing his vulnerability and shame to scare him away from a really beautiful relationship is absolutely there and real, emotional, and intense. I love that this is paired with a really funny and perfect teen voice and incredibly realistic teen characters. I really hope this book gets the love that it deserves!
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  • Taylor
    January 1, 1970
    This cover is so beautiful and gay i could CRY
  • Dany
    January 1, 1970
    Highschool experience from a South Asian main character's point of view.Edit : I'm editing this review now because I feel like this needs to be said. Questioning is a part of LGBTQ community. Everyone interprets their questioning differently. Nandan is a great character and this is just a part of his high school and even a smaller part of his life.Not every coming out story is clean . Some of us have it messy. Questioning everything we thought we knew is just part of growing up. And Nandan is Highschool experience from a South Asian main character's point of view.Edit : I'm editing this review now because I feel like this needs to be said. Questioning is a part of LGBTQ community. Everyone interprets their questioning differently. Nandan is a great character and this is just a part of his high school and even a smaller part of his life.Not every coming out story is clean . Some of us have it messy. Questioning everything we thought we knew is just part of growing up. And Nandan is handling it the best he can. Don't let other critic reviews sway you. This is an amazing book and deserves to be loved.Review :Nandan , living with his mom always feels put of place. When he ends up with his sort of crush Dave alone in his apartment , they hook up and become a thing.The plot , theme , Characterisation couldn't be more relatable. I could connect with most of the story and I'm pretty sure fresh High school graduates can relate even more.We are totally normal is a curated version of 13-18 life all around the world.Thanks Edelweiss and Harpercollins for granting me with a review copy. This has not I'm any way affected my opinions.Full Review to come
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  • Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    this cover gives me life
  • Tova
    January 1, 1970
    This cover made me cry. It's so fucking beautiful. Thank you Rahul Kanakia for existing and being a writer.
  • kaysmagiclibrary 💫
    January 1, 1970
    2.75 STARS**Thanks to Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC for an honest review.**rtc actually doing into detail about how i felt about this book but for now i just wanted to clarify why i rated this so low.i know theres a lot of controversy surrounding this book about how sexuality is handled but thats not what i had a problem with. no two stories or experiences are the same so its kind of wrong for us to be like oh, that doesnt match our experience so it most be wrong especially because 2.75 STARS**Thanks to Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC for an honest review.**rtc actually doing into detail about how i felt about this book but for now i just wanted to clarify why i rated this so low.i know there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this book about how sexuality is handled but that’s not what i had a problem with. no two stories or experiences are the same so it’s kind of wrong for us to be like “oh, that doesn’t match our experience so it most be wrong” especially because there has been SO many people who has identified with this. there were times when i really related to nandan when he questioned his sexuality and honestly, it’s something i’m still trying to figure out. but fair warning this is not exactly a romance but rather an intense character study.my main problem was the writing and plot. the writing was not my cup of tea. and there was no plot which is fine but i feel like the synopsis led me to believe it was something that it wasn’t. anyways, don’t let my two star review deter you from picking up this book once it’s released because it was worth the read.
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  • Rach
    January 1, 1970
    I was looking forward to reading this book from what I read of the blurb and the cover is lovely. I didnt like how the book started. It felt like we dropped right into the story which didnt seem to develop that much in story terms. Some of the characters I took a dislike to as them seem to be selfish and petty and couldnt connect with them. Overall the book was ok read. I received a ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher for an objection review. I was looking forward to reading this book from what I read of the blurb and the cover is lovely. I didn’t like how the book started. It felt like we dropped right into the story which didn’t seem to develop that much in story terms. Some of the characters I took a dislike to as them seem to be selfish and petty and couldn’t connect with them. Overall the book was ok read. I received a ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher for an objection review.
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    This book is so, so good; if only for Kanakias vibrant, easy prose. Her main character is so real and she captures what it means to be a teenager with such clarity and precision. Highly recommend for young adult librariesa queer Indian-American kid being raised by a widowed mom, navigating social pressures and the popular kids, and figuring out his sexuality. There is a window and a mirror for more or less everyone. This book is so, so good; if only for Kanakia’s vibrant, easy prose. Her main character is so real and she captures what it means to be a teenager with such clarity and precision. Highly recommend for young adult libraries—a queer Indian-American kid being raised by a widowed mom, navigating social pressures and the popular kids, and figuring out his sexuality. There is a window and a mirror for more or less everyone.
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 50% if you think teenagers, especially teenage girls are superficial, manipulative, twits maybe don't write a book about them. Own voices or not to even suggest that kids might come out for social status is pretty ....something.
  • anna grace 🌈
    January 1, 1970
    this sounds.. amazing and also why does the cover remind me so much of carry on??
  • Kuzu
    January 1, 1970
    I gather that this book has garnered a bit of attention ahead of release based on some negative reactions to the protagonist's treatment of his sexuality. I read him as someone who's questioning himself intensely (actually, I read him as potentially gender-questioning, and was surprised that the ending wasn't a revelation of transness, but even leaving that aside). He's an unreliable narrator when it comes to his own and others' queer experiences, and I can see how that could be upsetting if I gather that this book has garnered a bit of attention ahead of release based on some negative reactions to the protagonist's treatment of his sexuality. I read him as someone who's questioning himself intensely (actually, I read him as potentially gender-questioning, and was surprised that the ending wasn't a revelation of transness, but even leaving that aside). He's an unreliable narrator when it comes to his own and others' queer experiences, and I can see how that could be upsetting if taken at face value. The ending feels a bit sudden to me, which may play into some readers' dissatisfaction with the resolution of Nandan's self-questioning. Overall I enjoyed it, though. Nandan's discomfort and questioning felt quite real to me and Kanakia manages to juggle the dynamics of a large group of friends without getting too confusing. I'll be looking forward to more of her work in the future*. *Note: the jacket copy on the ARC I have uses he pronouns for the author, but I've checked her twitter and the bio there says "she" so I am going with the most recent information.
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  • Brianna Carrasco
    January 1, 1970
    As for the non-spoilery part, this book was nothing like I expected. I thought I was jumping into a fluffy teen mlm romance, and while I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, that was not it at all. Yes, it was a mlm romance, but it was mainly about the main character Nandan exploring his sexuality, being VERY UNSURE if he's gay or not, and trying to navigate his social circle, his self-image, and the kind of person he wants to be. Nandan's thoughts and actions and friend group were so relatable and As for the non-spoilery part, this book was nothing like I expected. I thought I was jumping into a fluffy teen mlm romance, and while I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, that was not it at all. Yes, it was a mlm romance, but it was mainly about the main character Nandan exploring his sexuality, being VERY UNSURE if he's gay or not, and trying to navigate his social circle, his self-image, and the kind of person he wants to be. Nandan's thoughts and actions and friend group were so relatable and took me right back to high school, and the writing allows you to fly through the book in a few hours. There was less of a plot and more of a long series of events. If I were to describe this book in a sentence, it would be "a few weeks in the life of a nearly-alcoholic teen POC who is very confused about his sexuality, friendships, and place in the school hierarchy." As for the spoiler-y parts (view spoiler)[ Nandan exploring his sexuality made up the majority of the book and it was so interesting to see him question himself in a way that's very relatable but not necessarily talked about in YA books where people are either already out or don't question their sexuality to the extremes that Nandan did. The interesting part of his whole exploring-sexuality thing was the fact that Nandan lived and went to school at a very liberal place in California and he is completely open about exploring his sexuality (literally all of his friends, teachers, and mom support him) yet he is still filled with shame and embarrassment that even he seems to not notice that takes the form of being completely disgusted with Dave one moment and into him the next. It was also amazing and kind of sad to see how people treated Nandan after his coming out. Nandan recognizes that he lives in a place where absolutely no one would beat him up or something for being queer but he notices these microaggressions like the boys being less playful with him and the girls being more down to gossip with him and let him into their social circle. Some of these microaggressions Nandan actually enjoyed. Throughout the book, he is frequently interested in the "girl world." He craves being invited to hang out with the girls, he enjoys watching them put on makeup, he always wants to gossip with them (specifically Avani) and he can't figure out if he likes hanging out with the girls so much because he's gay or because he's attracted to Avani!! I guess this just goes to show that it's not just sexuality that Nandan is figuring out, but gender roles as well. It is all so very confusing for him and understandable, but also completely frustrating when he doesn't understand his feelings for Dave and kind of toys with him throughout the book. One thing I hated about the novel was the ending. I know the story didn't follow a concrete plot so it would have been hard to wrap up, but I really needed closure. I read something the author wrote, about not having a major villain in his stories but rather making the villain internal conflict, which I can completely see. Nandan constantly critiques, criticizes and shames himself. But this internal conflict is never resolved. Yes, by the end of the book Dave and Nandan are back together, but at Nandan's rate of confusion, they could be broken up again by the next day! And we still don't know if he identifies as gay or not! Maybe that's the point. Questioning sexuality can sometimes be a lifelong process and maybe Nandan is still figuring it out. I still think this book would have benefited with a bit of resolution, or at least Nandan acknowledging that he is still questioning. The book nearly lost one star from me for the ending alone. (hide spoiler)]I'll end with one of my favourite quotes from the book, which perfectly describes most of Nandan's thoughts and feelings, along with most of mine throughout high school: "It was so fun and so nice, and I sighed, because I hated my personality so much."
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  • Dani (Paperback Wishes)
    January 1, 1970
    The idea of being with a guy didnt make me sick, like it seemed to make some guys. Sometimes I thought itd be fun. Different. Easier. Yet at the same time the idea of coming out felt shameful. Itd be so needy. So dishonest. 5/5 stars! So I saw this gorgeous cover and was immediately beyond intrigued. I loved the cover so much and then I read the blurb and decided that this would be an amazing queer romance and I was so excited when I was given an E-galley. The thing is that this book wasnt at “The idea of being with a guy didn’t make me sick, like it seemed to make some guys. Sometimes I thought it’d be fun. Different. Easier. Yet at the same time the idea of coming out felt shameful. It’d be so needy. So dishonest.” 5/5 stars! So I saw this gorgeous cover and was immediately beyond intrigued. I loved the cover so much and then I read the blurb and decided that this would be an amazing queer romance and I was so excited when I was given an E-galley. The thing is that this book wasn’t at all what I was expecting. That is to say that I didn’t expect to be called out this way. And I was CALLED OUT.The book does something that I really haven’t seen in any other “coming-of-age”/”coming-out” books. It has an extreme focus on the internal conflict of how coming out in any capacity has a very real effect on how people treat you. This book just strips down all the romantic notions of the beautiful process of revealing who you are. It’s not afraid to talk about how gross life feels, how gross you feel when you’re coming out. This book really caught onto the most subtle parts of the experience.Nandan is finishing up an awesome summer when he hooks up with his friend Dave. Who makes him feel things, but he is totally straight. They both are. Or are they? You don’t know, they don’t know either, let’s talk about it.The feeling of being a fraud, or attention-seeking. Even just with yourself, the feeling of being colored differently in people’s minds is incredibly and powerfully isolating. Nandan is this character that is so very certain of how high school works, but no idea how he wants to fit himself into it. He’s constantly second-guessing himself and deeply analyzing everything he feels in order to figure out what he wants.He someone who doesn’t trust himself and his own motivations and he really goes through multiple different nuanced arguments for why he may be feeling this way or that way. The only thing clear is that no one really seems to understand. As he makes himself vulnerable to others, he is equally exposed to how people see him. Through these conversations, it’s clear that people define him how they want to. With such a varied of outside opinions, Nandan is frozen in the center.I really think that this book is exceptional in this. However, the other half of this book is Nandan’s speculations of the “Ninety-nine”, or just the group of “important” people at school. In great detail, he notes subtle shifts and microaggressions between all these people. I didn’t love this because it just didn’t reflect my experience. I wasn’t very interested in the high school drama, but I’m sure this reflects someone’s experience. Someone far more social than I.I did like Dave for the most part, I just wished there were more moments between Nandan and Dave. I felt like Nandan could have saved himself some grief by being more honest with Dave. I still loved them though. Nandan is such an idiot, it was cute.TL;DR: This is probably the most insightful introspective narrative on coming out that I’v ever read. It was truly a surreal experience to read and it took me right back to high school. The vulnerability in this makes it such an important story that holds so much understanding within it’s pages. E-galley provided by Edelweiss and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. All quotations and opinions are based off an uncorrected proof.
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  • Fanna
    January 1, 1970
    March 11, 2020: Honestly can't wait to read this, now more since this is the backlist book of the month for The South-Asian Reading Challenge 2020! December 18, 2019:|| South-Asian MC; desi rep - Nandan|| Asian-American MC - Dave|| Queer romance; bisexual experience|| THAT COVER THO|| comparable to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
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  • noah
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsthis was a surprisingly fun and easy read. i couldn't put it down until i finished it.honestly there wasn't a whole lot of plot or character development, but nandan is so human that i couldn't help enjoy his story. i felt teleported right into the story it was awesome.the story kinda meanders through parties, sexuality, and social hierarchies; and while none of that really went anywhere it was still interesting to read through nandan's point of view.nandan's exploration of his sexuality 3.5 starsthis was a surprisingly fun and easy read. i couldn't put it down until i finished it.honestly there wasn't a whole lot of plot or character development, but nandan is so human that i couldn't help enjoy his story. i felt teleported right into the story it was awesome.the story kinda meanders through parties, sexuality, and social hierarchies; and while none of that really went anywhere it was still interesting to read through nandan's point of view.nandan's exploration of his sexuality was a bit of a weird and angsty ride and the confusion over his sexuality had me confused with him. unfortunately the conclusion still left me a bit confused. everything was so sudden and without explanation, i wanted one more chapter or an epilogue to clear some things up for me.
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Couldnt finish this. If I had to read one more dude or bro I was going to throw the book against the wall. It was a rambling mismatch that seemed to have zero meaning until the weirdly sudden blow job scene and then youre like what?!.And I really wanted to love it! Thats cover is stunning, two gay Asian teens as MCs. It could have been perfect. But the plot is pretty much not there. Couldn’t finish this. If I had to read one more “dude” or “bro” I was going to throw the book against the wall. It was a rambling mismatch that seemed to have zero meaning until the weirdly sudden blow job scene and then you’re like “what?!”.And I really wanted to love it! That’s cover is stunning, two gay Asian teens as MC’s. It could have been perfect. But the plot is pretty much not there.
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  • Nazanin
    January 1, 1970
    This was the WORST gay book, I have EVER read and I've read 1443356323. The writing was really bad and the way the characters talked to each other was so annoying and the main character only went to parties and got drunk which annoyed the hell out of me. I read 50% of it then skipped to the end not wasting my time on it, I really really wanted to like it but 😔✌ This was the WORST gay book, I have EVER read and I've read 1443356323. The writing was really bad and the way the characters talked to each other was so annoying and the main character only went to parties and got drunk which annoyed the hell out of me. I read 50% of it then skipped to the end not wasting my time on it, I really really wanted to like it but 😔✌🏻
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