Gustavo Tiberius enjoys his well-ordered, routinely regimented life. He has a few people he tolerates and a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. And if he’s lonely, if he misses his father, then he certainly isn’t going to talk about it. That isn’t Gus’ way and he isn’t particularly fond of interaction with people anyway. And then he meets Casey. A stoned hipster who doesn’t seem to care about Gus’ sharp edges or anti-social behaviors. No, Casey thinks Gus is awesome and Gus isn’t really sure how to handle that. The last person who thought Gus was awesome was Pastor Tommy, Gus’ father, and he’s gone now.
But Casey is like a whirlwind Gus can’t escape and, if he’s being honest, he doesn’t particularly want to. Casey isn’t “normal” either and while he adores Gus, he’s rather afraid Gus won’t be able to accept Casey for himself. So, somewhere between the awkward dates, awesome hugs, and Harry S. Truman’s squeaks, Gus and Casey will have to decide if being normal is more important than simply being.
So I’m not how this book slipped past my radar and when I saw we’d only done an audio review, I knew that How to Be A Normal Person would be a perfect fit for our Diverse Books Week of the 2018 Reading Challenge. I’ll never meet T.J. Klune because whenever faced with the opportunity to meet people I admire, I hide behind potted plants and squee in terror rather than act like a human being. But if I did meet Klune I’d want to know how he does it. How does he write book after book that so perfectly captures humor and grief and all those emotions that make up the human experience? Because he does it so damn well and yet I’m always taken by surprise by the depth and breadth of emotion he is capable capturing from one moment to the next. How To Be A Normal Person is no exception.
Gus is full of sass and sharp barbs and it’s obvious that he’s existing but not really living. The death of his father destroyed him in some ways and he’s been lonely since Pastor Tommy’s passing, but he isn’t the type to embrace first and ask questions later. It’s a combination that makes him a wonderfully engaging character and one that I desperately wanted to find a happily ever after. Casey seems like an ordinary stoner, drifting through life, loose and kind and a bit vapid. But Casey is a well of hidden depths and aside from his surprisingly successful career as a writer, he is also asexual. Asexuality is an often misunderstood or, worse, dismissed addition to the LGBTQ spectrum and while Casey has accepted himself, the rest of the world has been slower to adapt. He’s afraid that he won’t be enough for Gus or that Gus won’t be able to accept him long term. It’s such an isolating sensation that my heart broke for Gus and yet I suspect it’s something we’ve all felt at one time or another. And finding commonality in the human experience is something that Klune excels at.
How To Be A Normal Person is another amazing work by T.J. Klune. He’s one of those authors that can make you laugh out loud and then has you sobbing like an idiot by the next page. There’s sweetness and love and most importantly, acceptance in this book, and we all need and deserve that, even when don’t realize it. Plus any book with a ferret is bound to be awesome. Consider this one highly recommended.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Diverse Books Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of our amazing diverse books prize packs. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a Kindle Fire filled with Dreamspun Desires/Beyond books, plus a 3-month subscription!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Diverse Books Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.