Cover Image: A Different Kind of Normal

A Different Kind of Normal

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Member Reviews

I loved this book. It's cute and has a good message.  I read this to my son and strongly feel that teachers should all have a copy of this. Bullying is such an issue these days. Highly recommend,
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I thought this would be a cute picture book but it is so much more than that. The graphic chapter book has an amazing message about acceptance and not conforming to the worlds standards of “normal”. I will be using this book with my middle school students during small group counseling lessons.
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Abigail Balfe is an Emmy Award-winning author, illustrator, and creator of marketing and social media campaigns whose latest book "A Different Kind of Normal" (Its stateside title. It was originally published under "A Different Sort of Normal" in her native U.K.) is a middle-grade targeted journey through Balfe's own diagnosis at the age of 33 as being neurodivergent. 

On her own website, Balfe writes "I create stories based on my own life experiences and a desire to help children of various ages through difficult situations and emotions. My projects often reflect underrepresented themes including family addiction, spirituality and autism." Indeed, "A Different Kind of Normal" is a different kind of book. While the book's chapters are well organized, "A Different Kind of Normal" weaves together Balfe's whimsical yet emotionally resonant illustrations and her rather freestyle form of storytelling into a book that defies traditional rules of literature in favor of a writing style, at least I'm guessing, more suited to the way her brain works. 

For those who are able to sync with Balfe's rhythm, this will be a unique but inspired journey. For those unable to do so, "A Different Kind of Normal" may prove to be a more challenging reading experience and one that is most certainly devoid of the expected narrative structure. 

While Balfe occasionally reflects upon her adult years here, a good majority of "A Different Kind of Normal" immerses us in her childhood and teen years as she sought to figure out how to adapt to the "normal" world when she was aware of feeling very, very different. 

While there's a certain bit of whimsy to Balfe's writing, rest assured that she tackles difficult themes with refreshing honesty such as bullying, sexuality, and the challenges of dealing with adults who largely dismissed those things which made her unique. 

I often resonated with Balfe's writing as an adult with a disability myself who has worked in the field of autism for many years. I appreciated her honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to speak about, or at least write about, sensitive subjects that are often not addressed by writers dealing with disability or autism. Other times, however, I can't help but feel like Balfe's more freestyle approach to writing gets away from her a bit and turns into writing that feels disjointed, unfocused, and not well developed. 

For example, early on in "A Different Kind of Normal" Balfe writes about how so many people write about autism using complex language or big words and she declares "A Different Kind of Normal" doesn't do that. 

But, it actually does do that. Repeatedly. While it helps that Balfe occasionally provides a definition for these words, it still feels weird every time it happens. 

Additionally, while it's refreshing that Balfe deals with sexuality it's worth noting that she does so in an expansive and often progressive way that may prove challenging for more conservative readers who may pick up the book unaware of this since it's really not mentioned in the book's marketing. While sexuality is a valuable discussion here, there are conversations that distract from the book's stated goals. Am I offended? Not in the least. However, some readers may very well be. 

Can you write for every reader? Of course not. However, I'm just not convinced that everything here really serves the purpose of the book as clearly as needs to happen. 

There are times that Balfe's writing comes off as loose and tangential, however, then she manages to toss out zinger after zinger and remarkable insight after remarkable insight. So, while I'm not convinced it works as well as it should it's still largely effective. 

The books closing chapters are incredibly valuable as Balfe presents a diverse kaleidoscope of resources and materials for children, teens, allies, and others. For these chapters alone, I would easily recommend "A Different Type of Normal." 

Balfe's illustrations throughout are beautiful to behold, emotionally immersive, and they simply add so much to the material at hand. They simply enhance the material greatly. 

I will confess that I didn't entirely click with "A Different Type of Normal," however, Balfe's unique voice is invaluable for its honesty, integrity, sensitivity, and literary open arms. You can't help but feel like Balfe is giving her readers a literary hug of reassurance and a whisper of "You can do this" for those still enduring the challenging childhood and adolescent years. An absolute gem of a book for those who are neurodivergent and for everyone else, "A Different Type of Normal" may not be the book you expect it to be but it's most assuredly the book we need it to be.
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Every school and library needs to get this book for their shelves. It was a wonderful, heartfelt journal. I always say everyone deserves to find themselves on the shelves and we need more books just like this.
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I believe this book could be quite effective at building empathy for neurodivergent classmates by giving them a glimpse into how the author’s brain works and how that effected their ability to navigate and live within a neurotypical environment. We could all use a bit more understanding when it comes to people who are different from ourselves and this memoir can open those conversations.
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so much of this book echoed my own experiences; reading it felt like walking through my own mind. the order of the stories, the artwork and definitions, just ... everything felt right.

this was an especially lovely experience because I finished Ellen Outside the Lines not that long ago and I feel like this would be a WONDERFUL companion book to Ellen.

read this if you enjoy cg drews social media presence, kelly jensen's non fiction anthologies, and/or any #actuallyautistic books!!!
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When I first saw this book I was expecting a childrens picture book, this book is definitely not that! This book is much longer and is more of a graphic novel. It's filled with the authors experiences growing up as a child with autism (who never knew that term until she was much older). She includes poems, stories, facts, pictures, and tips for other people who have an autism diagnosis. Some of the stories jumped around quite a bit, but that is also an example of the brain of someone with autism. I'm not quite sure who the audience for this book would be. I am picturing some of my middle school or high school students picking this book up. I am curious how students with autism would connect to this book. I hope this shines a light for some of those children and gives them a sense of connection and belonging. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Childrens for providing me an ebook to review.
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