All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blog Tour Review: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

on February 12, 2018

Differently Normal
Tammy Robinson
Hachette NZ
2018, 344p
Copy courtesy Hachette AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.

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 . . .

This is the first Tammy Robinson book I’ve ever read. I think it’s her first traditionally published title but she has quite an extensive backlist available on Amazon. At first glance of the cover I didn’t realise that this is actually very much a YA/NA story. Both Maddy and Albert  have recently finished high school. Both are also working – in Maddy’s case it was easy to take the full time job at the place she worked at through school. It’s close, she needs the money to contribute and she can work her shifts around her mother’s work so that one of them is always around to care for Maddy’s sister Bee, who is intellectually disabled. In Albert’s case, he fell into a job after he volunteered at a stable and now he’s scraping together enough money to get out of the house he’s grown up in, away from his father’s domineering personality and non-stop criticism. Nothing Albert does pleases his father and although he knows he shouldn’t bother, Albert still can’t help but crave some sort of approval.

Albert and Maddy meet when Maddy takes Bee to the stables where Albert works for Bee to do Riding for the Disabled therapy. Albert is pretty attracted to her from the very beginning but Maddy has her life quite mapped out and she’s got no time for a boyfriend. They don’t tend to understand just how much time taking care of someone like Bee requires. Albert sets out to prove her wrong though – he likes Bee as well and he’s happy for Maddy to bring Bee along when they meet up if it’s her turn to be looking after her. And slowly, Albert wins Maddy over.

Both Albert and Maddy have lives that I would say don’t fully satisfy them although in Albert’s case it’s more openly obvious. He enjoys his work at the stables and he feels as though he could be good at it, moving into other areas and so do his superiors. Nothing is ever good enough for his father though, who is judgemental and verbally abusive. Through Albert’s eyes you watch the disintegration of his parent’s marriage as his mother retreats further and further from her life and his blustering father either remains oblivious or blames his mother’s discontent on Albert’s inability to make something of his life. It’s not difficult to understand precisely why Albert wants to leave so badly. No one would want to stay in that environment.

Conversely, Maddy knows that leaving isn’t really an option for her. Her mother can’t cope with Bee’s needs alone and work as well. Respite care is difficult and not always reliable and despite the restrictions Bee places upon her life, Maddy genuinely loves her sister and wouldn’t have it any other way. She has natural frustrations about not being as free as other people – she sees to have very few friends, knowing that her inability to be spontaneous and also make plans have led to people drifting away. But Bee is her first priority and that’s an incredibly admirable thing. Maddy, Bee and their mother are a tight family unit – they have struggles, generally of the money variety and it does seem without saying it that their mother does feel the stresses and pressures of single parenting with one child being severely autistic.

I found myself quite charmed by the burgeoning relationship between Albert and Maddy. Both of them feel like very genuine characters who talk and act in a way you’d expect teens to and their relationship also develops in a realistic way as well. They share a lot of themselves with each other. For Albert, Maddy’s family might not have a lot of money but there’s a love and warmth that has always been missing from his own. Maddy and her mother do work as a team, both of them always prioritising Bee often to the detriment of themselves. Maddy has hopes and dreams of her own but has accepted them as unrealistic with her life. Although often a bit prickly, Maddy has a strength and maturity far beyond her age.

To be honest, the only issue I had with this book was the ending. I wasn’t particularly expecting that direction, especially as there’s a swerve and then another one but it just didn’t really work for me as far as having the sort of emotional impact on me as a reader that it should have. I wasn’t entirely sure why some of the drama happened what I would term as ‘off page’ either because that contributed to the disconnected feeling. It was used as a catalyst for change too, but why did it need to be? Probably some of those changes should’ve been made long ago.

A promising start and I appreciated the dedication to portraying a family struggling to make ends meet in various jobs whilst also caring full time for a disabled family member. There was a cute romance with promise but I felt as though the tightness of the story lost its way toward the end.


Book #29 of 2018

One response to “Blog Tour Review: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

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