We are Totally Normal by Naomi Kanakia

Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.

Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.

But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?

From Rahul Kanakia comes a raw and deeply felt story about rejecting labels, seeking connection, and finding yourself.

TITLE: We are Totally Normal
YEAR: 2020
LENGTH: 288 pages
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Contemporary

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s), Closeted/Questioning Main Character(s). 

WE ARE TOTALLY NORMAL meanders from party to party as Nandan tries to figure out what it means that he hooked up with his friend Dave and liked it. 

The MC is trying to figure out his sexuality, struggling to put words onto his feelings and to align those feelings with his actions. I appreciated that characters around him offer labels that might fit him but (with very few exceptions by characters the book doesn't like much anyway) don't try to keep labels on him. It offers the words in case the reader finds them resonant, but also allows the character to not be ready for that specificity quite yet.

This is very character driven, with the added layer that the MC is trying to figure out what to do to drive positive interactions between his friends/classmates at the seemingly endless stream of parties, hookups, and hangouts that is his high school experience. Only a couple of things really *happen* but the ways in which things almost happen, do happen, don't happen, or are assumed to have happened but the MC was totally wrong are absorbing and engaging. Short on plot, long on vibes, and full of heart, WE ARE TOTALLY NORMAL takes seriously how big everything feels in that last year of high school before official adult things start happening; knowing that things don't have to last forever in order to matter, but they also don't have to stop quite yet. 

CW for sexism, homophobia, drug use, alcohol.

*Published under Rahul Kanakia.

BTB 2021 Reading Challenge (QAOC)

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Two guys standing on a beach at sunset, surrounded by figures to suggest a party around them. The guy on the left is in the middle of turning to the one on the right, his hand resting on the other guy's shoulder. The guy on the right is gently holding the first guy's wrist as their eyes meet with a mix of surprise and longing.


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