“For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love. Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.
DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .”
“If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love”
Differently Normal is set in New Zealand and is told from two different perspectives; Maddy, our main protagonist and Albert, the boy she eventually falls in love with.
Both Maddy and Albert have difficult lives, Maddy, due to (along with her mother) being a full time carer for her autistic sister Bee and Maddy finds that she has no time for complications in her life, but this also means no time for friends, no time for herself – not even for her own dreams.
Maddy knows that this is it for her, this is her future, she has no way out.
Albert, also has a challenging home life, his father is emotionally abusive, his brother is misogynistic and his mother copes with the dysfunctional family dynamic by drinking.
Working at the stables is his only escape, it’s his way out, save up enough money and leave.
When Maddy and Albert meet at the stables during Bees’ riding lesson, Albert immediately feels something for her, and is soon trying to convince Maddy to date him.
As Albert slowly breaks down Maddy’s walls he teaches her that she is capable of loving and capable of being loved, and the pair grow closer together, sharing their hopes and dreams with one another, learning that there is that person out there for everyone, the person you should be sharing your life with, the person that gets you, and for his story, Maddy and Albert are clearly meant to be, and the relationship blossoms the way only first love can, that is until everything comes crashing down around them.
The lyrical prose that Robinson so deftly weaves, crawls it’s way into your heart and grips on tight, ultimately crushing it.
The characters, especially Bee are so perfectly portrayed, showing how life with a family member on the autistic spectrum can be, both the good and the bad.
The characters get under your skin, they start to feel like family, their hopes and dreams become yours and their pain is felt so acutely
Is as though their heartache is your own.
This is the first of Robinson’s books that I’ve read, but I fell hard and fast, and like first love, this ultimately broke my heart.
This should definitely be on everyone’s to read list this year, because even though this will completely devastate you, it conveys the message that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope.
*I received a copy of this book to read via netgalley from Little Brown. All thoughts are my own*