In a normal love story, she’d drop her papers, and he’d pick them up. They’d lock eyes, and their forevers would begin…but this isn’t your ordinary love story.
Fifteen Seconds of Normal chronicles the desperate days of three seventeen-year-olds struggling through the worst month of their lives. Kaeya, a transfer student on a quest to hide her Tourette Syndrome. Thatcher, a literature obsessed junior on the edge of a breakdown. And, Sam, an indie film maker with a secret of his own.
When the three meet in their school’s abandoned art gallery, they come up with a daring plan to rewrite the narrative, change the world, and find their fifteen seconds of normal.
A “Perks of Being a Wallflower” for a new generation from EPIC Award finalist Alex Marestaing.
Plot: Marestaing’s novel is a smart, steadily-paced story that fluctuates between the protagonists' daily revelations in diary-like fashion. In an elegant loop, the author opens the novel with a climactic event and then recounts all of the time leading up to that event and after.
Prose: Marestaing writes characters that are refreshingly intelligent, mature, emotional, caring, and relatable. These qualities particularly shine through in their dialogue and backstories, which are seamlessly interjected throughout the novel.
Originality: Marestaing’s novel calls to mind other YA romance voices, but the unique way of structuring this novel between voices and time periods lends fresh air to this text. The integration of literary quotes from a literature-obsessed student, is an asset.
Character Development: The unique, unsung heroes of this novel receive their fifteen minutes of fame in poignant, memorable ways. Through the characters' interactions with each other and others, they emerge as genuine individuals on their way to developing more fully developed senses of self.
Date Submitted: August 22, 2017
For sixteen-year-old Thatcher Kelly, "talking to dead authors was an inescapable habit of his, a tribute to the books that had embedded themselves in his soul" and "collecting more beautiful words from more beautiful books [was] another obsessive habit of his." A recent transfer to Glen Canyon High, Kaeya Garay tries to maintain a low profile and keep her Tourette's Syndrome hidden. But an altercation at their school throws Thatcher and Kaeya together, along with film buff Sam, and their lives will never be the same again.
The author's writing is full of beautiful turns of phrase and delightful metaphors and similes that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. My only complaint is the similarity of the characters' names: Kaeya, Kieran, Quentin. When Thatcher and Kaeya initially bond over Hemingway, you can see that these two are meant to be together. How they get there is the fun part. Sam plays an integral role as a kind of matchmaker, and his movie quotes are a good foil for Thatcher's book quotes. Everything comes together so well. There's even a reference to the school's Emily Dickinson club, no doubt a nod to the author's previous book, I'm Nobody. But I was disappointed that we never find out the story behind Mrs DeGeau.
On a par with John Green, with a similar feel to The Fault in Our Stars, this is my favorite book of the year so far.
Kaeya moved to a new school with the hopes of being treated like a “normal” teenager by her peers. It’s hard to hide her Tourette’s, but she manages and even draws the attention of the boy she’s crushing on. Unfortunately, that boy’s not Thatcher, who is already half in love with her! The drama starts on school photo day, when Thatcher, totally oblivious to what day it is, comes to school after the worst morning of his life, looking an absolute mess. Needless to say, his picture is horrendous and he immediately throws it away, only for someone else to fish it out and create a humiliating meme that quickly goes viral. One thing leads to another and Thatcher ends up being suspended for fighting. It’s in suspension that he gets to know the real Kaeya, who retreats there when her Tourette’s gets too much to handle. However, despite budding feelings for Thatcher, Kaeya’s still set on going to the school dance with her crush and getting her fifteen seconds of normal. Alex Marestaing weaves a beautiful, heartwarming coming-of-age in Fifteen Seconds of Normal.
With complex, relatable and likeable characters, Fifteen Seconds of Normal is a brilliant read for Young Adults and grown-ups alike. In this day and age, cyber-bullying is something everyone is aware of, even if they haven’t experienced it firsthand, and Alex Marestaing has a way of putting you into Thatcher’s shoes so that it really felt like you were going through it with him. The same goes for Kaeya with her Tourette’s. Both main characters were so lovely that it was a genuine pleasure to read about them, and I loved how they developed over time and figured out what was really important to them. Also, although it's a teenage story set in high school, the angst is kept to a minimum, which I appreciated because it doesn't detract from the main plot. The layout was also a big plus for this novel; as it flitted between Thatcher's and Kaeya's perspectives, the paragraphs were short and to the point, which meant I kept saying to myself, "Just one more section!", resulting in my finishing it in a day! It's a wonderful story focusing on friendship, love, and accepting who you really are. I guarantee Fifteen Seconds of Normal is a story you will want to go back to again and again.
Sorry if this review is all over the place, and maybe I should not have written this right after finishing the book since my emotions are so close to the surface, but I needed to share my love for this book as soon as I could (in the spirit of the story).
I had no real idea what I was getting into when I started this book, expecting some cute teen story. But that is not at all what I got, in the best way possible. This was an emotional, tear filled (for the characters and me), ride to finding out what love really means. This is probably the best book that I have read this year, and I never even saw it coming. There were sad tears shed for this book, but now that I have experienced the ending, there are happy tears. Gah, I want to own a physical copy of this book so I can randomly hug it and then force/loan it out to all my friends (and even some acquaintances) so they can experience it to.