The Other Normals

386p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207990-9; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207992-3. LC 2012014341.
Gr 7–10—Perry Eckert loves to read Creatures and Caverns rule books and make up characters, but he doesn't play with anyone. That changes when he meets Sam and creates a new character that is a ferrule-a humanoid with red skin, yellow hair, and a tail. When Perry begins to cut classes to play with Sam, his parents decide to send him to Camp Washiska Lake where he will have to interact with "regular" kids and be without his beloved game. Not long after arriving, Perry meets an actual ferrule and travels to the World of the Other Normals. The ferrule, Mortin Enaw, and his intern, Ada Ember, explain to him that our world and theirs correspond to each other so that actions in one affect the other. Mortin studies these correspondences and has determined that if Perry kisses a certain girl at his camp, then the princess of his world will be rescued from a giant snake/insect creature. Adventures ensue in the other world involving police with octopus tentacles instead of legs and frog-headed courtesans but, in the end, it is at the summer camp where events come to a head. Vizzini has created a likable geek in Perry and an interesting alternate world that could easily be the setting for more adventures. This book will be enjoyed by readers open to something that straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Vizzini (Be More Chill, rev. 9/04; It’s Kind of a Funny Story, rev. 5/06) indulges the secret dreams of the terminally nerdy in this lighthearted yet bitingly funny fantasy. Fifteen-year-old Perry -- loner, gamer, and "late bloomer" -- has been sentenced to eight weeks of forced socialization at Camp Washiska Lake. His summer takes a fantastical turn when he follows a red-skinned, yellow-haired, chain-smoking creature into the woods. Perry discovers that the world of his favorite role-playing game is based on the reality of another universe, a universe in which battles are epic, good and evil are distinct, and Perry can leverage his geekiness to become a hero. In the World of the Other Normals, Perry joins a band of opinionated rebels in their mission to thwart enemies, save princesses, and restore power to rightful (and righteous) rulers. He’s also periodically required to return to summer camp in order to complete quests of the social variety; the fate of both worlds, it seems, rests on Perry’s ability to orchestrate his own first kiss. As adept as Vizzini is at world building, the story’s strength lies in the real-life aspects of Perry’s situation. Through the protagonist’s incisive observations, rampant insecurities, and unapologetic embrace of nerd-culture, Vizzini depicts the teen male experience with authenticity and honesty. jessica tackett

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