Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal – by Anna Whateley

I actually read this book a while ago, but after a run of ‘meh’ stories, I’d rather give the time and effort to talking up a fantastic book rather than go the other way. It doesn’t mean I’ll never give a bad review, but it won’t be something I’ll be doing right away.

But onto Peta Lyre! FYI, this is not a spec fic book, as most of my reads are. So if you’re looking for that kind of review – sorry, will have to wait until next time. But trust me, whatever genre you normally read, this Peta Lyre is worth branching out for.

Peta has her own alphabet. A myriad of diagnoses that are not only invisible to others (SPD, ASD, ADHD, but have hugely impacted her life. Her family, her school, her friends – all her relationships are analysed, studied, and second-guessed by Peta as she rates how she performs each day against the rules that allow her to pass as ‘normal’. Then starts it all again the next day.

Except the combination of a new girl at school, a new crush, and a school ski trip turns all that on its head. Suddenly, passing as ‘normal’ doesn’t cut it, and sticking to all the rules she’d spent years trying to understand just seems to make things more complicated.

Peta Lyre is, in short, an engaging, emotional, and vitally important story. Reading from Peta’s perspective showed the world in a way that most people would not have experienced, and showed just how much effort is put in by Peta just to survive. The flashbacks to Peta’s childhood hit the spot in particular for me – with members of my family sharing some of Peta’s diagnoses, seeing that they have a voice in the world was incredibly reassuring.

There is a plot, a romance, and a finding one’s self element to this book. They are engaging and pull you along as a reader, but very much serve as a backdrop to understanding Peta, and more importantly understanding how she understands herself and and the world. That is the big takeaway from this book. Jeb is delightful, heartbreakingly so the more his explored is explored, Sam is as much an enigma to the reader as she is to Peta (or maybe just to me), and Ant is a fantastic inclusion of a parental figure in a genre more inclined to write them out. Even the minor characters like Kat come in as fully formed and avoid Background Character Trope-iness.

One thing I really should mention is that Peta Lyre is an Own Voices novel as well, and that lived experience really comes through in Peta’s voice. It reads very much as being for and giving representation to communities and voices not often heard in literature, but equally as someone outside the target demographic, I found it emotionally engaging, highly readable and I devoured it (the first time) in one go. It might sound like a cliché to have a character desperately trying to be ‘normal’ only to discover that sometimes ‘normal’ doesn’t necessarily bring happiness or acceptance in and of itself, but Whateley tells that story from a literarily unique viewpoint in a way that is honest and inclusive, with real-world applications. I’m not usually a particularly emotional type, but this book had me on the edge of tears on multiple occasions. Usually happy ones.

I think it’s pretty obvious what I think of this book. If you’re looking specifically for plot or action, maybe it might not be for you. It isn’t what the story aims to be either. But if you want a book that successfully delivers on character and relationships, making for real world impact and reflection, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Five out of five. No gimmicky cartoon stars this time, just five golden stars perfect as they are.

Inhale. Exhale. Survive.

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