How To Be A Normal Person, by TJ Klune
Narrated by Derrick McClain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Audio Release Date: April 15, 2016
Audio Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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?
Okay, maybe a review entirely in hashtags isn’t going to happen but it neatly sums up my experience listening to HTBANP on audiobook. I raved about this book back in November when I first read it and couldn’t say enough good things about it. But listening to the audiobook version really took it to another level for me. Between TJ Klune’s beautiful words and Derrick McClain’s low-key but wonderfully adept narration, this book is an experience that should not be missed.
Gus is one of the most original characters I’ve ever come across. He’s permanently grumpy, introverted and counts three Vespa-driving senior citizens as his best friends. He has a ferret named Harry S. Truman, eschews TV, has no internet and occupies his lonely evenings by reading the encyclopedia. He grabs his morning coffee and afternoon lunch from the same café and eats only eats frozen meals for dinner. And ever since his world fell apart, he wants nothing more than to live a quiet, unassuming life where he finds comfort in his routines, his work and his small circle of friends.
When Casey blows into town looking to escape an LA lifestyle that had become unbearable, Gus’ world is turned upside down. From their first meeting, they are both fascinated with one another (Casey openly, Gus reluctantly) and despite Gus’s resistance, he finds himself drawn to the pot-smoking hipster with the amazing tattoos and impressive beard. But when Gus overhears Casey describe him as being weird, odd and totally not normal, Gus sets out on a mission to fix himself and be what Casey needs him to be – a normal person.
I will admit that I resisted reading this book at first. I wasn’t sure how an asexual character would fit in to my view of a ‘romance’ novel and how missing the more overtly sexual elements would affect my overall enjoyment. I should have resisted less. This book is funny and sweet and, yes, even sexy. The chemistry between Gus and Casey is palpable and it’s so lovely it hurts. Listening to their relationship play out was such a joy and all credit is due to the narration by Derrick McClain who manages to capture both Gus and Casey’s characters brilliantly.
This was an emotional read for me and its impact did not lessen upon listening to the audiobook. Sure there is a ton of humour here (oh my god, the We Three Queens are THE BEST side characters ever!!) but there’s also Gus’ bittersweet recollections of his late dad, the profoundly deep Pastor Tommy. Throughout the book, Gus recalls conversations he had with his dad before he passed away, those words usually tying-in with Gus’ emotional state at that point in time. Pastor Tommy’s words never failed to give me goosebumps. His love for his son was uncompromising and beautiful and towards the end when the Pastor Tommy describes the night Gus was born, I was in full blown crying mode. For me personally, as someone who is a parent but also someone who has lost a parent, those words were everything I want to say to my child and everything I wanted to hear from my parents. Thinking about it now even makes me tear up.
About only thing that really didn’t work for me in the book were the very long ‘self help’ passages. Listening to them, however, was a completely different experience and I thoroughly enjoyed them the second time around. I’m definitely a more patient listener than I am a reader. Listening to an audiobook has helped me discover bits I missed (okay, skimmed!) the first time around. It’s almost like getting a bonus chapter!
I cannot recommend How To Be A Normal Person enough. This book has the most adorable MC’s, brilliantly rendered side characters, humour, levity and the audiobook successfully serves to make TJ Klune’s characters shine. It was a near perfect read and thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid–he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)
Find Tj at tjklunebooks.com
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I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for a fair and honest review.