How To Be A Normal Person, by T.J. Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 16, 2015)
Page Count: 290
Genre: Asexual (M/M) Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 (★★★★★)
* I received an advanced copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.
Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.
Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.
But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Before I’d even opened this book, I could already tell that I was going to love it for three reasons:
1. It’s a novel by T.J. Klune.
2. The main character, Gus, is the kind of weird and fantastically unique character that I love to read.
3. It’s an asexual romance.
(I don’t talk about myself on my blog often, so this is weird to type… but I am asexual (and biromantic), and I almost cried when I saw a novel by one of my favorite authors with a character that I can relate to on a deeper level than usual. While there are dozens of ambiguously asexual characters in fiction, there are shockingly few books with openly ace relationships.)
Okay, the novel…
“Oh Gus,” Casey said, wiping his eyes. “You are a delight. I am delighted by you.”
Gus is cranky and opinionated. He is “abnormal and weird and strange”. He hates Michael Bay and hipsters and people in general. And he carries his pet ferret around with him everywhere he goes.
But he is, without a doubt, delightful!
Klune is known for his quirky characters with their train-of-thought rants and strong personalities, and Gus is typical Klune in all the best ways. But he’s not all “Grumpy Gus” all the time; he’s fiercely loyal, to his friends and the memory of his father, and will go way outside his comfort zone to make sure his friends are happy.
I was worried at times that Gus might be a bit too much for me. He’s overwhelming in some ways, the kind of person who seems almost too strange to be real. But then I realized that it was refreshing to read about a character who doesn’t give a damn about what strangers think of him!
“What do you identify as?”
Identity is a big issue in the novel. Casey is asexual, and he makes sure Gus knows that very early in their friendship-slash-relationship. And Gus… doesn’t care! THIS IS WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IN AN ACE ROMANCE! I mean, Gus has questions, and he’s not certain that he fully understands what being asexual means, but he accepts that this is who Casey is, and moves on. It’s not a point of conflict. It’s not a big deal.
“Are they all… you know. Like you?”
Casey arched an eyebrow. “Asexual?”
“What?” Gus said. “No. I don’t care about that. Are they all hipsters?”
Gus himself isn’t sure what he is, but he’s content to be an oddball. He lives a carefully scheduled life that allows him to be comfortable, and doesn’t care about anything else. That changes when he overhears a conversation about him, though. Gus has very few people who he cares about, and their opinions of him do matter, even though he pretends otherwise.
That stung. It shouldn’t have. They were things he’d thought about himself. They were things he knew others thought about him. But to hear it said so carelessly hurt more than Gus had expected.
So Gus sets out on a quest to change who he is, to find a new identity that he hopes will make him seem more normal. (Spoiler alert, it’s not as easy as he thinks it will be!)
“Love and shit.”
The relationship between Gus and Casey is really beautiful. Both men are willing to go above and beyond for the other. Casey has to get high because he’s so nervous about hanging out with Gus, but he still manages to be easy-going and determined. He adores Gus, and it’s clear in everything he says and does. And likewise, Gus turns to internet searches to figure out what a “normal” relationship looks like because he thinks Casey deserves someone normal. He is completely out of his comfort zone but continues to push his boundaries for Casey at every turn.
Gus hated feeling anxious. He also hated warm ketchup, loud people, sunburns… and that weird feeling that tattooed, bearded hipsters caused in the pit of his stomach that felt like he had tripped down a flight of stairs into a frozen lake that got lit on fire.
They fit together perfectly. Casey is willing to accommodate Gus’ comfort limits, allowing Gus to set the pace on their relationship, and he never asks Gus to change who he is. When Gus does change, Casey accepts him every step of the way. Gus does the same for Casey, smoking pot with him, talking about his family, and trying new things for Casey.
And their snuggles on the couch, Casey’s hugs and their gentle kisses? Yesssssss, perfect!
The final word?
This book is amazing. It’s ridiculous and weird and hilarious, and I possibly got a contact high while reading it, but I loved every single word of every single page. T.J.’s writing style is a breath of fresh air, and I can promise that he’ll make you laugh! If you’ve ever felt abnormal or weird or strange, then you should read this book.
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