The Other Normals

(2012)
Other Normals book cover

Ned Vizzini's The Other Normals tells the story of Perry Eckert, a young math whiz whose divorced parents' lawyers agree that it would be cheaper to send him to summer camp than to feed him at home, and since he got kicked off the summer math team, there's no reason to keep him around. Also, socializing with other kids at camp could be good for him--his parents and brother think he spends too much time alone creating characters and reading rulebooks for the role-playing game Creatures & Caverns. It's sadder than your usual stereotype of a tabletop role-playing game geek (and I use the term geek as a proud game geek myself) because RPGs are intended to be played by more than one person.

Perry goes to camp and runs into a fantasy creature like the one he plays in C&C who takes him to the world of the Other Normals--an alternate dimension version of earth that's still very closely tied to Perry's earth. He has adventures there, crosses back over to camp, goes back to the other normals, back to camp, continues to rack up adventures hand over fist, all supplemented with a healthy dose of Vizzini's humor.

It's a fun, light fantasy X coming of age story. I'll acknowledge that I'm not a young adult, and that this contributed to my personally finding the story to be less than satisfying. The humor was occasionally too similar to an Adam Sandler movie (or whoever the current equivalent would be--Kevin James?) for my taste. You do have to suspend belief for a magical conduit to another dimension that involves mushrooms and a car battery, but even so Perry sometimes behaves in an over the top manner that's forehead-slappingly unbelievable (SPOILER - highlight to read: a scene in which Perry's love interest at camp accuses him of being a boy, not a man, involves him dropping his pants in front everyone at the camp dance). If that sounds like the sort of thing that makes you chuckle, and you enjoy adventure and fantasy world building, visit The Other Normals for yourself.

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