Teenage boy lost connection to his world and starts blogging as a school project, or rather journal writing because he never publishes a thing. The reader spends 142 pages inside the teenagers journal and head. This being a teenager’s head there’s no narrative arc really, just teenage slang, angst and endless second-guessing of themself and others. This novella (billed as a novel) was originally published in 2017, I read the 2024 pocket version. I picked this book in German up in a Zürich book store this week from the Swiss literature section, where it was hailed as a recent ‘classic’. It was ok, mostly because it was short anyway, but not recommended. Had it been longer I probably would have left it unfinished. The reason it gained attention in Switzerland seems to be its use of teenage and informal language as an apparant novelty. I think in other languages that sort of thing is decades old, no?

I really enjoyed Normal People: A Novel. It resembles in tone and setting the diary notes from my own time at university. The choices contemplated but not made, and resulting potential regrets. The self-centered observation of the world around you, and how that can result in misinterpreting or over-interpreting the actions and intentions of those around you. Those aspects definitely resonate with my depressive last few years at university, and made me emphatise with both protagonists. Online reviews frequently mention how flat most characters in this book remain. It is a surprising critique I think as we experience the story through the eyes of both main characters, both as I said self-absorbed, self-loathing and constantly on the verge of depression. Through such eyes it is impossible to see others or your connection to others in full colour, rich in dimensions and in splendid detail. You only see it from your own narrowed down perspective, and only with regard to your internal deliberations and doubts. It made the book feel more authentic to me, not less.