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Guess What? “Normal People” is really about Normal People

TW: This article discusses a book whose content touches upon topics of depression, ill mental health, and toxic domestic environments.

I feel somewhat late hopping on the Normal People by Sally Rooney trend. It was on The New York Times bestseller list and already has a Hulu mini-series based on the book. However, I sped through the novel in four days and it surprised me in interesting ways. I discussed the book with a friend of mine, who was not equally impressed with the novel, and she spoke to how she felt it lacked effort. However, I think the stylistic simplicity followed the trend of creating a book dedicated to real and normal people.

Two women sit at a table and talk
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com from Unsplash

Rooney’s Normal People is a fictional story about how seemingly different people can mold together and have dramatic impacts on each others’ lives. It tells the story of bold Marrianne and reserved, self-conscious Connell and their journey together throughout high school and university which was ignited by a romantic connection. Typically when thinking about regular normal people, one can assume happiness, peace, and a little white house at the end of the lane; however, that’s not normal. Normal is facing problems like self-doubt and anxiety all while pushing forward and leaning on people one trusts for support.

two people resting their heads on each other's shoulders, backs facing the camera
Photo by Külli Kittus from Unsplash

This book is not full of action or cliffhangers, it’s normal. Descriptive imagery is limited and dialogue is short and to the point. My friend saw this as poor creativity from the author, but I felt as though it spoke to the raw, real emotions of the story and its characters. Across the timeline of the book, the couple share experiences, although at differing times. Differences in academic success, social capital, relationships, upbringing, and wealth all serve as factors that would seem to separate Marianne and Connell but don’t. One could even say this is a comment on political polarization or divorce, and I do think those views have grounds, but I too see it as a comment on how people really face these obstacles, despite some romance novels glazing over them to create a perfect reality.

silhouette of man and woman kissing at sunset
Photo by Annette Sousa from Unsplash

This book for sure made me cry! Marianne struggles with appreciating her self worth and Connell increasingly experiences social anxiety. But, every time they reunited it brought me a lot of peace — speaking to them successfully surmounting their differences. After I finished reading the book I felt like I lost two close friends which is how I know it was worth reading. Normal People also serves as a reminder to appreciate those we have in our lives we can support. If you’re looking for a significant spin on a romance novel that tackles real issues, I really push you to try this book.

Sources: 1

Elizabeth Webler

U Mass Amherst '22

Elizabeth studies philosophy, political science, and communications at UMass Amherst. Favorite topics to write about include politics, personal growth, and current events. She loves reading, watching SNL and exercising in her free time!
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