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Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine "Perry" Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn't happening?not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp. Perry knows he's in for the worst summer of his ...
Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine "Perry" Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn't happening—not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp. Perry knows he's in for the worst summer of his life.
Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game. Perry's new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest together, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.
Posted September 25, 2012
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review
The Other Normals could read middle grade because of the high-fantasy elements that teenagers might rather roll their eyes at, as well as Perry's inexplicable dorkiness — though it is the essence of his character, which I absolutely loved — but the content is more mature: a bit of mild swearing, sexuality, and just plain giggle-worthy inappropriateness... giggle-worthingly inappropriate for middle-grade boys, that is (penis jokes, anyone?). Nothing offensive to me obviously, but I can imagine some parents disapproving. On the other hand, it's extremely child-friendly. The Other Normals is the kind of book you want your children to stay away from, but whose story you don't want them to miss out on. Honestly, if you're a parent reading this, just be a cool mom/dad and hand it over to your kid. So what if they learn more than a few ways to name the male genitalia? The deep recesses of a teenage boy's mind are bound to contain far more incriminating thoughts.
Plot-wise, it contains that classical Vizzinian magical realism (classical to Be More Chill, anyway) and never gets boring. I was stunned by the span of creativity that's portrayed; Perry's adventure, and subsequently, Vizzini's imagination, is endless! The teleportation, the nefarious villains, the odd and enchanting array of introduced creatures, the geekiness, the underground adventures — such a thrill of a read! The world of Other Normals and the concept of correspondents are both novel and intriguing; brilliant and yet at the same time, somewhat devastating. I really couldn't get enough of them.
One thing was slightly off, though. While often-hilarious anecdotes pertaining to growing up, family, the perplexing female species, and just regular daily observances are picked up on, I feel at times, there are too many attempted stretches of humor. Maybe my sense of humor itself has evolved over the years, but I feel The Other Normals wasn't as remarkable because it doesn't possess the entertainment factor Vizzini's other works have. I constantly wondered if he was desperate for ideas to make kids laugh... because some of it is just not funny, as if he's trying too hard. The story, I loved — it's original, it's grand, it's marvelous. The tone however, is just stiff. I was slightly disappointed.
That being said, overall, I'm glad I got to try this new side of Ned Vizzini. It's definitely unlike his previous works, but enjoyable nonetheless. It's one of those books that are for reluctant readers: fast-paced, action-packed, and funny; more like a comic book or movie without images, something middle-grade boys will enjoy because they'll be able to relate to it best, but girls will still be able to find humor and insight within. Combining a fresh, believable voice with deep discoveries about interpersonal relationships and adolescent identity, The Other Normals is a wild escape from reality I both applaud and recommend. It's hard to make a children's book profound, yet still appealing, but Vizzini, as always, does it seamlessly.
Stephanie Loves: "I look at the stars ... they force you to think in a different direction."
Radical Rating: 7 hearts: Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable.
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Posted November 18, 2012
Ah, summer camp, that place where some kids can’t wait to go and others dread the experience as if it were prison, a punishment for unidentified misdeeds and social ineptitude. Such is the fate awaiting poor 15-year-old Perry Eckart when his parents drop him off at Camp Washiska Lake. It’s more than just his parents, though—his mom’s and dad’s significant others, divorce lawyers Horace and Kimberley, are actively involved in orchestrating what Perry is sure will be the worst summer of his life and his older brother, Jake, is enjoying his dismay immensely.
Sure enough, that’s the way things start out, with autocratic counselors and bullying older campers, the kind that would maybe be better suited to a juvenile detention facility. To add to his woes, who can he play his beloved role-playing game with? Playing Creatures & Caverns is when he’s most comfortable but Sam, his RPG buddy who has also been dumped at camp, is acting like he doesn’t want anything to do with Perry.
But wait, maybe there’s more to this camp than Perry expected! One minute he’s looking out a window and the next, he’s chasing a very odd and elusive creature into the woods and his life changes forever—or, at least, until he saves a princess who’s been kidnapped by a monster named Ophisa and brings order back to the World of the Other Normals with the help of his new friends, Mortin Enaw and Ada Ember.
I love this book, yes, love it. Never having been a teenaged boy—and having raised only girls—I can’t say with knowledge that this is a faithful rendition of a teenaged nerdy boy but, oh my goodness, it certainly seems so. The angst and goofiness abound and Perry is a completely dorky delight. Add to that an imaginative cast of characters, Normals and Other Normals, and a story that takes wings and you’ve got a few hours of wonderful entertainment.
Some of my favorite lines—
“God, life is too boring for me to live anymore, so can I please wake up in the morning in a more exciting place? Not that I want to be a whiner.”
“our transgressions are wholly childish and so we hide them as if they’re sexual”
“Listen. When you were growing up, we always told you that you could do whatever you wanted with your life. It’s time to drop that lie.”
“I don’t like being naked. I haven’t really had the Growth Spurt yet, you know what I mean?”
“The younger boys surround us like horrible reminders of what we used to be.”
Perry’s adventures and what he learns about himself along the way are nothing but fun—rush right out and get this book!
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2012.
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Posted November 24, 2012
The Twins Read review The Other Normals
This would be my second foray into Ned Vizzini's writing, the first being Be More Chill. What initially drew me into purchasing a copy for myself was the premise of Perry's quest in the alternate world, alongside his ongoing battle with maturity and growing up. I mean, I already know how awkward it is when you're hitting puberty, but when what sounded like a kickbutt epic gamer-style quest gets thrown in the mix, I knew I had to pick it up.
Did I get what I was looking for?
Sadly, no. I ended up reading a story about a fifteen year-old boy whose idea of playing the game Creatures & Caverns is just by creating the characters. (Kinda like playing dress up with Barbies, if you think about it.) If you thought your life was sad, Perry's life is honestly sadder. His older brother's a teenage alcoholic and disturbed faux-rock god, his parents are divorced and are seeing their respective divorce lawyers, and Perry has zilch friends to speak of. When his parents get wind of his role-playing game obsession, they -including the aforementioned lawyers- unanimously agree to send Perry off to camp to be a normal teenager. It is after accidentally hitting, and getting beat up by one of the camp's bullies that Perry sees an actual creature from his game, and is catapulted into an alternate universe, and it is here where Perry learns that he has an actual mission back home, and that is to kiss the most beautiful girl from the camp opposite his, to save the dodgy creatures from the alternate universe he gets transported to by way of a car battery and magic mushrooms.
The best thing about this book would be Perry Eckert's narration. It gave a great insight on the thoughts of pubescent boys, and was actually quite believable. Some of the scenes are honestly quite unexpected; honestly, they're really quite random - so random, in fact, that I can't even determine if it's a good thing or a bad thing. However, I had a hard time thinking of the actual point of the book. I remember one of my college professors addressing those of us in his Filipino literature class, "Maybe there isn't a point. Why must we always look for an objective? Couldn't art just exist for art's sake?" But I don't think he would be referring to the likes of this book. Sure, Perry had a nice, easy transition in the end, but it somehow felt lacking for me. There was no epic quest, and I just really couldn't think of where "Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero." comes in, which is something that the blurb promises. The scenes were uninspired, and too convenient for the main protagonist to actually spur events to transpire. The contrived humor was off-putting, and oftentimes, Perry would actually make me cringe at how pathetic and hopelessly immature he was coming off as.
I think I'm just really not part of Vizzini's target audience. I have no idea, however, if this would better appeal to male readers, so if you're into gaming, and ever fancy yourself a little getaway into a fantasy world like Perry's, maybe you'd be the right one to give this book a little whirl.
- Michelle of The Twins Read
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Posted November 7, 2012
The Other Normals was just 400 pages of laugh out loud hilarious dialogue, characters, and plot. I enjoyed everything in The Other Normals. Ned Vizzini knows how to write humorous dialogue and has a way of portraying a fifteen year old boy's insecurities and issues without sounding whiny, cliched or boring. The whole setting of this novel had me cracking up. Peregrine, who hates being called that and prefers Perry, is the son of two divorced parents. His brother is a cliched bad boy but his parents are each dating their own divorce lawyer (weird huh?), Ned took it to the next level and showed us that through this divorce Perry got a set of new parents. Everything in his family is facilitated through the lawyers. Be it setting up time for lunch or sending in a birthday gift. I found that unbelievably funny especially when I read people's reactions later on. Also, the camp he is sent in had a sign saying no lawyers allowed, so what did the two lawyers do? they got out of the car in the middle of no where, and bid them farewell. I mean what? These scenes are so ridiculous yet so funny so you don't really think too much on how that made no sense. Perry loves role playing games, his game of choice is Caverns & Creatures. However one day in camp he sees a creature just like the one in his story. This is when the fantasy is infused in the novel. Perry ends up going to the other world that can not be pronounced using the human language. A whole conversation is dedicated on choosing a name for that world and it was decided to call it "The Other Normals World". Now Perry is a late bloomer, or at least that is what his mom says which is backed up by his hairless situation that he mentioned once or twice to the readers. So once he is in The Other Normals World and ends up participating in a fight or two and actually using weapons to fight, he does not want to go back to the human world where everyone thinks of him as a white boy, not man or guy, but a boy. I really enjoyed the secondary characters, such as Mortin and Ada, who are Other Normals. The story was fast paced when we get to the action and we meet so many different creatures and species and I just had a blast imagining them all. One species had the bodies of supermodels but frog heads, others had human heads but octopus bodies. One thing I really liked about this novel is the format of its chapters. I know many people hate long chapters and I am one of them. Some chapters were one page long! I found myself reading more and more this way, every time I end I chapter I see the next chapter is only two pages long so I tell myself to just read the next chapter. This cycle would stay like that and I end up reading 50 more pages that what I was planning to! Also whenever Perry and his gang moved from one city in The Other Normal World and also to our Earth, a two page header with the name of the city/world they are in is added. I really liked that because it felt like the book was divided in sections. Also we get to see a map that Ada has with her where I referred to it multiple times to see where they are exactly. All in all The Other Normals isn't just a novel, it is an adventure. Perry was a great companion on this adventure and I really enjoyed Ned Vizzini's writing. I honestly hope he writes more humorous young adult novels because I could not stop laughing while reading The Other Normals.
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Posted September 26, 2012
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