The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini: A Great Example of Why I Should Stop Ignoring 3.40 Average Ratings

Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin. But that isn’t happening–not if his parents have anything to do with it. Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp to become a man. They want him to be outdoors playing with kids his own age and meeting girls–rather than indoors alone, with only his gaming alter ego for company. Perry knows he’s in for the worst summer of his life.

Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game, including the alluring Ada Ember, whom Perry finds more beautiful than any human girl he’s ever met. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero. But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.

Let me explain my logic when it comes to Goodreads. 3.5 and below is a bad rating. 3.6 to 3.9 is a pretty good rating. 4.0 to 4.4 is an awesome rating. 4.5 to 5.0? Chances are that the number of ratings collected isn’t all that high. But if it is, I read it. Because it’s got to be at the very least, a decent read. I really need to stop ignoring 3.4 ratings.

The premise of this book was interesting. I thought Perry was actually a pretty cool and funny guy, if a little naive. But see, there came my first nitpick.

I don’t usually have this problem, but every once in a while I read about a really cool character with a unique name. Deuce and Fade from Enclave. Katniss from The Hunger Games. Jaron from The False Prince. You get the gist. Sometimes I realize that that character has grown on me. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, they have become “the” character in my mind. Jaron to me will always be Jaron from THE FALSE PRINCE. Katniss to me will always be Katniss from THE HUNGER GAMES. Deuce and Fade to me will always mean ENCLAVE. This time, I didn’t realize it, but Perry from UNDER THE NEVER SKY became “the” Perry.

And when I get stuck with the mentality that one character, one person, is “the” person, it’s hard to erase that way of thinking. So, the entire time, as I was reading THE OTHER NORMALS, I kept thinking about Perry from UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi.

And that was a problem, because I couldn’t see Perry Eckert as a person. A three-dimensional, real-life person instead of a character from a book. Just saying, you should keep that in mind as you as read this review, because it was partly because of Perry (from UTNS) that I couldn’t fully enjoy this book.

It wasn’t just that though. As this book went on, I couldn’t bring myself to like this book. I wanted to, because even though I like MMOs than RPGs, I mean–video games, guys. Video games. After watching and reading Sword Art Online and books like Feed by M.T. Anderson, I’ve developed a sort of love for books about technology and video games.

But even through the complicated world-jumping and video-game feel to this book, I still had a lot of issues with it.

  1. I couldn’t get a sense of who Perry TON was. I mean, beyond my identity crisis due to Perry UTNS. It was more than just a love/hate as well. Through the book, I grew to dislike Perry TON more and more. His reactions, what he did, his friends and enemies, none of it felt real. And, during the whole story, Perry didn’t grow as a character that much at all. I thought this story was going to be about transformation and coming to terms with both his fantasy world and the real one, but that wasn’t really the case.
  2. Comedy. There was just something off about it. Some of the things Perry TON said and thought were funny, but the comedy just wasn’t for me. It’s not that I didn’t get it, it just wasn’t funny to me. Plus, it seemed forced. Part of why I love author humor is the way they do it, so carelessly and beautifully. It’s remarkable, and it takes talent. Rick Riordan can do it. Cassandra Clare, Cinda Williams Chima and many other amazing authors can do it. I didn’t feel it in this story.
  3. Writing: It’s choppy. There’s no real flow to it. I kept trying to find balance and evenness in this book, but it just wasn’t there. I couldn’t see it or feel it. Dialogue was weird and some things were described in a way-too-complicated way.
  4. Gamers. Gamers are not nearly as stereotypical as Ned Vizzini makes them seem, guys. Just letting everyone with not as much of a geeky personality know that.
  5. Oh yeah, and figurines and game guides? Figurines are usually about $10 and game guides about $35. I know because I never wanted the stupid figurines. I wanted to know how to get the next HM so I could get to the next town in Pokemon.
  6. No, Ned Vizzini, we do not want to know nit-picky facts about games.
  7. It wasn’t just any of this either. I mean–Ned Vizzini can make all the different prices he wants, he can make the characters stereotypical and use up page space by filling it with mind-numbing facts, but what really got to me was the whole story seemed off.

This book may appeal to older, mature middle-grade readers, specifically boys, but it just wasn’t for me. If you want something better, you may want to try reading the manga Sword Art Online or Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. You could also try Glitch by Heather Anatasiu or Feed by M.T. Anderson. 1 star.

pg count for the hardback: 387

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