Normal People: A must read

As a Gen-Z with a Tik Tok addiction and ADHD, my love for reading and my attention span are ever diverging. Yet, merely hours after opening Normal People by Sally Rooney, I flipped the final page, enraptured from start to finish. 

Set in Ireland, Normal People follows the relationship between Marianne and Connell from their high school years through their college years at Trinity. At face value, it is easy to dismiss the story as a clichéd romance with its main characters inexplicably and unrealistically drawn to each other, wise beyond their years, and separated by class and popularity. While these are true aspects of the novel, Rooney’s depiction of this trope mocks the entire genre of coming-of-age romances by providing one additional element: scope.

Every couple of chapters, Marianne and Connell break up, and then get together. At any point, Rooney could have ended the novel with the couple intact. Yet she continues, meandering the pair in and out of each other’s lives while building their individual stories. 

Connell, a former rugby star, struggles with loneliness and anxiety, an issue rarely depicted in male objects of affection, yet prevalent in most of his demographic. Marianne, a gifted student from a cold family, grapples with her crippling self-hatred and its impact on her relationships, both romantic and platonic. Like all twenty-somethings, they do not have their acts together. They are self-centered and must overcome their individual problems alone. Their relationship is a reflection of their growth and maturity happening at different times and different rates. 

Marianne and Connell’s relationship serves a purpose in their individual plots, yet it is not the primary story of their lives. In a genre defined by clichés, Rooney’s message is clear: the encompassing relationships prevalent in most romances are flawed. When you are twenty, you do not know yourself. You are just at the beginning of your adult life. No single relationship is your story, merely a chapter that intensifies and complicates your plot. Marianne and Connell may end up together and they may not. That is not important. Their individual growth is in part due to each other, demonstrating the beauty of authentic relationships.

Some winter weekend, when you are fed up with the constant screen time school demands, pick up Normal People. You will not be disappointed.

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