REVIEW: Peta Lyre's Rating Normal by Anna Whateley Is The Sort of Book You Want To Hold Onto and Never Let Go Of
Hello Fellow Readerholics,
It’s me again! I know I’ve been on quite the hiatus but I promise I’m back a little more permanently. I also have some very exciting things coming up on here so please cut me some slack! As far as reading goes, I haven’t been doing all that much of recent but I’m trying to fall back into it. Now let’s get onto why we’re here… the book! I was super excited to read Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley, so much that I preordered it as soon as I could! I read it and I have a lot of thoughts. Truthfully, I’ve been trying to write this review for a while but it appears I was at a sort of loss for words.
At sixteen, neurodivergent Peta Lyre is the success story of social training. That is, until she finds herself on a school ski trip – and falling in love with the new girl. Peta will need to decide which rules to keep, and which rules to break…
‘I’m Peta Lyre,’ I mumble. Look people in the eye if you can, at least when you greet them. I try, but it’s hard when she is smiling so big, and leaning in.
Peta Lyre is far from typical. The world she lives in isn’t designed for the way her mind works, but when she follows her therapist’s rules for ‘normal’ behaviour, she can almost fit in without attracting attention.
When a new girl, Sam, starts at school, Peta’s carefully structured routines start to crack. But on the school ski trip, with romance blooming and a newfound confidence, she starts to wonder if maybe she can have a normal life after all.
When things fall apart, Peta must decide whether all the old rules still matter. Does she want a life less ordinary, or should she keep her rating normal?
A moving and joyful own voices debut.
There was so much I didn’t understand about this novel when I read it for the first time. It is full of identities that don’t belong to me and characters that at face value, I share next to nothing in common with. When I revisited chapters that I’d taken note of, I realised that that was the quiet brilliance of Anna’s writing. Because although this was a book that wasn’t necessarily for people like myself, I could find numerous instances in that I saw myself or my friends. Trust me when I say this isn’t something to be underestimated.
As a character, Peta held the most significance for me. This could be because of her narration throughout the book or it could be because she was a bright spark of a character in a contemporary novel. I mention this because contemporary, while it is one of my favourite genres, is about turning the mundane into something fascinating and that isn’t always done well. As a character, she had these little quirks that made her a delight to know! This was shown not only in her behaviour patterns (like allocating half and hour every day for worrying) but in her ‘inner voice’ that was often poetic and raw. I don’t know what else to say about Peta other than that given the opportunity, I’d like be her friend. I would also like her to teach me to ski because I imagine I’d be pretty helpless.
Another character I’d like mention, if not briefly, is Peta’s best friend Jeb. He was my favourite side character by far. He had so much personality and he was genuinely a fun character! He was incredibly understanding and compassionate of Peta and I think we all need someone like that. He is also my favourite type of character in the sense that he doesn’t have an easy life but instead of turning his back on humanity, he fights bitterly to remain kind and fundamentally good. I thinks it’s quite admirable.
The romantic aspects of this book were enjoyable to read but I wasn’t as invested as I wanted to be. I really liked Sam but I found her difficult in the context of how she interpreted Peta. There were times where she was unnecessarily impatient and cold towards Peta and because of my pre established soft spot for Peta, I was a little frustrated. by her. I also understand that her behaviours weren’t necessarily fictional and that as a neurotypical person, like Sam, I would potentially behave similarly. I like to think I wouldn’t behave that way but we can’t dictate how others interpret us.
The plot itself, was equal parts detailed and fast paced. I loved all of the interactions between characters but I also loved the story. The setting of the snow and the skiing somehow made me nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced. It was really quite exciting!
For me, the most important part of this book was the representation. I’ve heard a lot of people saying that through reading this book they felt seen and heard. This novel was a celebration for anyone with ASD, ADHD, SPD or who are a part of the LGBTQI+ community. It represents groups of people that for someone who reads as much as I do, I haven’t read all that much about. It also happens to be an Own Voices novel which means that these are experiences coming from the author (real people!!!)
Overall, I really did love this book. It allowed me to see through the lens of someone vastly different from myself which I really appreciate. I’m rating it a 4.5/5 and for Peta, I say; Inhale, Exhale, Survive.
Your Favourite Bookworm