Saturday, 13 May 2017

How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune

Unabridged Audio Book
Narrated by Derrick McClain
Duration: 11hrs 7mins
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Audible US | Audible UK


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?

My thoughts

Today is going to be an okay day

And this was a more than okay, or rather, fabulous book. The story captured me from the start, but what impressed me most was the wonderful combination of laugh out loud hilarity and poignant moments. The two are so perfectly balanced that I would alternately find myself laughing despite recognising the underlying pain and deeply touched while a smile tugged at my lips.

While I wasn’t quite a TJ Klune virgin before starting this book, I can’t say I’ve read many of his stories either. Obviously, that’s something I’ll need to change as soon as possible. If this book sets the standard, I’ve been missing out.

It is safe to say that this author has a unique way of using his words and telling a story, which is something that always captures my attention. And there was so very much in this book I adored it’s hard to know where to start (or where to stop, for that matter) but I’ll give it a shot.

What’s not to love about a story featuring ‘Biker Vespa Lesbians, also known as ‘We Three Queens’, an ‘asexual stoner hipster’, a main character often addressed as ‘Grumpy Gus’, who’s best described as ‘abnormal, weird, and strange’, a video store in which Tuesday’s are dreaded because at least four customers come in’… I could go on, but honestly, you should just read or listen to this book.

It may surprise some, but for me Casey was the easier to understand and define character of the two. He is a stoner hipster and asexual and doesn’t make a secret of either. Gus on the other hand is less easy to pinpoint. He is, without a doubt awkward and a loner, not to mention OCD. But on more than one occasion I found myself wondering if he wasn’t (borderline) on the autism spectrum.  This is ‘just’ my personal interpretation. Such a label is never suggested in the book, but I found the thought lingering in my mind as I read. Having said that, it wasn’t something I needed to know for sure. When push came to shove, Gus was Gus. ‘Abnormal, weird, and strange’, for sure, but also utterly unique and all the more charming for it.

I think the pivotal moment in this book for me was when the ridiculous website Gus had been getting all his guidance on ‘how to be normal’ from suddenly made perfect sense and gave the best advice EVER: Don’t assume; talk!

Oh. My. God. I was listening to a romance addressing my pet peeve when it comes to romances head on. I don’t even want to try and count how many reviews I’ve written in which I state my frustration about the two main characters ending up in a crisis which would have been easily averted if only they had talked to each other. And here, at last, was a love story doing exactly what I had wished for in all those other books; it made the two men communicate and resolve their issues as the more or less sensible adults they were.

This story left me with a lot to think about, a renewed appreciation for hugs, and a soft curse on my lips when the author ended it one word too soon. Well played Mr. Klune. I also feel I need to issue a health and safety warning; listening to this book while driving is akin to putting your life in danger. It is very hard to keep your eyes on the road when you’re laughing so hard, tears are streaming down your cheeks.

Since I listened to this story rather than read it, I suppose I should also say something about the narrator. Derrick McClain was a delight to listen to. I loved how he managed to give all the characters individual voices without ever appearing to alter how he spoke. But, I have to admit that this has been my first audio book in probably ten years, so I don’t really have anyone to compare him to. Having said that, he now finds himself at the top of a new list I started today called ‘narrators to keep an eye (or should that be ear?) on’.

Overall this was a hilariously funny yet thought provoking story, posing the question as to what is and isn’t normal, and who gets to be the judge of that. It’s a story about love, friendship, loyalty and being true to yourself and those around you. Ultimately it is a book I can see myself revisiting several times. And since I in general don’t do re-reads, that is saying something.


  1. TJ is a word genius. He uses words like a wand spinning tales of laugher and woe. He can do any genre. Comedy, drama, paranormal, sci-fy and epic fantasy adventures. I HIGHLY recommend the audio of The Lightning Struck Heart. Be careful with Olive Juice-- it WILL gut you--lots n lots of tears!! TJ is my very favorite and can't write them fast enough

    1. Thank you! I'll keep all of that in mind as I continue my journey through TJ's world.