By Avalon Kelly & Julia Kemp
Simplistic, elegant, heartbreaking – Sally Rooney’s Normal People follows the lives of two adolescents as they struggle to find their place, both in the world and with each other. The plot opens with friendless, headstrong Marianne, captivated by the well-liked school soccer star, Connell. The two have a star-crossed relationship throughout highschool, and keep their connection secret from their peers and families in order to keep Connell’s social reputation in check. However, when the forbidden lovers enter college, their roles reverse; Marriane becomes an intelligent and luxurious socialite, with Connell becoming an outcasted and anxious introvert. The novel spans six years of Marriane and Connell’s lives, and showcases the ups and downs that many long-term relationships endure in the real world.
Rooney skillfully captures the emotional depth of untiring love heedless of circumstance: throughout their relationship, Marianne and Connell face a seemingly endless number of difficulties – abuse, death, sense of self, social class – yet continue to support and love each other in the face of barriers created by such hardships. The couple’s lack of mutual understanding about their feelings for each other at all stages of their relationship presented a message of the importance of communication in maintaining any relationship (romantic or not). Rooney also addressed issues such as class disparity, eating disorders, and abuse in a very realistic manner. By presenting the protagonists as “normal people,” with normal lives, loves, and issues, Rooney has created an amazing novel with relatable characters and a heart-wrenching plot that will have readers hooked.