“Normal People” book review


Abigail Lincks

Published in 2018, “Normal People,” follows Marianne and Connell’s unique relationship. However, this is not the first time the characters were introduced to the public. In 2016, Rooney wrote short story, “At the Clinic,” following the two at twenty-three.

Abby Lincks, Editor

Is this love, toxic codependency, or both? 

Author Sally Rooney invites readers to peek through the closed doors, and minds, of two students living in the north of Ireland. From high school to university, the two can’t seem to let each other go completely. Whilst navigating adulthood, career, relationships and family, Rooney challenges the traditional unbreakable, time halting theme typically attributed to the romance genre. 

Though equally successful in academics, high school students Connell and Marianne could not be more different. Marianne has no friends and is unlikeable to fellow classmates. Connell, a rugby champion, is popular and in tune with current gossip. But no one knows that they see each other outside of school. Connell’s mom is a housekeeper for Marianne’s mother, and for most of their lives, Connell and Marianne have exchanged nothing more than pleasantries until one conversation leads to everything changing. 

New to Rooney, I was eager to dive into a unique writing style I had heard so much about online. Upon reading the first couple of pages, I was shocked. There were absolutely no quotations for when characters were conversing with each other. This annoyed me, but I got used to it. So, I don’t think it’s too much of a buzzkill once you get the hang of things. 

Second, Normal People is written from a third person point of view. This style is entirely different from any romance books I’ve encountered. Normally, readers focus just on feelings and emotion through characters’ thoughts about each other mixed with contemplation of how to manage some sort of conflict. This is not the case for Rooney’s Normal People. Her style is very much telling instead of showing, questioning every English teacher’s first code of conduct in writing. 

To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed her writing. Rooney manages to encapsulate Marianne and Connell’s unique, private bond so well that I felt like I was watching them through a small snow globe within the confines of a dorm, a bedroom, a grocery store, or a party. Despite it being in third person, I felt like I knew the characters quite well. The lack of a consistent view of every thought, every feeling for each other and themselves is brilliantly reflective of the distance and unhealthy communication between the two and the unsaid conversations that readers desperately want them to have.

Rooney’s portrayal of mental health in correlation to the shift from one chapter of life to another is dynamically conveyed through Marianne and Connell. This leaves me thinking that while both characters overwhelmingly struggle with the same issues for some time, I can see how it is reasonable to be upset that things don’t always go as planned, but more so understanding that Normal People is likely a reflection of the reality of most “Normal People,” not some typical character in a romance book.