Needing Normal

Freshman Year

Young Adult - Coming of Age
286 Pages
Reviewed on 07/06/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Emme Grange lives on stories of hope, on tales that tell us we can. She believes
we don’t have to change to be good enough. We already are, just by being ourselves.

Growing up near the Golden Gate Bridge, she spent years searching for the missing manual, "How to Be Normal." Emme knows what it's like to be a reluctant rebel, a modern misfit, a peculiar person. She writes for anybody who needs a story of acceptance and everyone needing a story of encouragement.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

Entering her first year in high school, a gifted teen determines to be a typical teenage student in the brilliant coming of age novel, Needing Normal (Freshman Year) by Emme Grange. Jett Harper's intelligence is above average. Accustomed to excelling in school, she is expecting that high school will be no different. While preparing for her first day at Presidio Prep, Jett overhears her parents arguing about her ability to handle her new environment. When her mother drops her off at school, she tells Jett to emulate the other students and act normal. In her first class, Jett is given an assignment in which she must work with four other students to complete a project that determines the majority of the year's grade. Failing a lesson assignment for the first time in her life and puzzled by the indefinite structure of social and friendship protocols, Jett struggles to define her place within the group. Can she uncover the secret to being normal? Will she ever fit in with her peers?

Seen from the perspective of an exceptionally gifted teen who struggles to conform to society's indefinable rules and customs, Needing Normal (Freshman Year) by Emme Grange is a remarkable young adult novel. Expertly and superbly written, the author captures every nuance of each character's personality and unbelievably empaths the thoughts and feelings of a gifted teenage girl. I was so enamored with Jett's character, and I applauded her determination to succeed in every aspect of her life. Jett's conflicts, her tenacity and perseverance, and the extraordinary people who encouraged and supported her create a poignant and unforgettable story. Her difficulties depict how life's path isn't smooth and that situations and conditions, which may seem hopeless and overwhelming, can be overcome with courage, thoughtfulness, generosity, and understanding. Inspiring and empowering, this young adult novel explores the true sense of friendship and acceptance. It is a brilliant novel with outstanding protagonists and a powerful message that leaves you feeling that our world is evolving into a more understanding and wonderful place.

K.C. Finn

Needing Normal: Freshman Year is a work of fiction in the interpersonal drama, social issues, and emotive fiction sub-genres, and was penned by author Emme Grange. The work is intended for the young adult reading audience, and is suitable for freshman-aged readers and up. Our protagonist is Jett Harper, a teen struggling with her identity and the idea of normality itself, who finds herself put to the test by a massive group project that can make or break her school year. With a bunch of unlikely new friends, Jett will learn the true meaning of expectations versus reality, and perhaps find herself in the process.

Author Emme Grange has crafted a delightfully character-driven work of fiction with plenty of fresh faces, interesting dynamics, and high-pressure school scenarios to offer readers. What results is a relatable and enjoyable teen tale that is sure to keep fans of school dramas turning the pages from cover to cover, and with a central heroine who develops beautifully into a young woman with a mind and heart of her own as the novel progresses. Jett is a voice for a generation beset with expectations from every angle, and utilizing her struggle for normality at the core of the novel produces a very poignant message for young adult readers today. The dialogue was also very effective, serving to display the unique traits of the characters and staying consistent with their age, whilst moving the plot and relationships forward in a natural way. Overall, I would highly recommend Needing Normal: Freshman Year to fans of gentle coming-of-age works, poignant social issues writing, and teen drama fans everywhere.

Pikasho Deka

Needing Normal is a young adult drama novel written by Emme Grange. Jett Harper is a teenager ready to join Presidio Prep as a freshman. Although exceptional at her studies, Jett struggles to gauge human behavior, leaving her socially awkward. When she starts high school, her Foundation mentor groups her with four other classmates in a project requiring personal experiences of love. As Jett tries acclimatizing herself with the other members of "Core5", she branches them into categories of athlete, princess, basket-case, brainiac, and rebel, taking cues from the movie The Breakfast Club. But the sudden loss of her neighbor's dog Yoda and her mother's overbearing attitude trigger her anxiety, leading her to lose her voice. Will she have a chance at a normal life?

Author Emme Grange provides a heartfelt and thoughtful portrayal of a teenager on the autistic spectrum struggling with the pressures of growing up while navigating friends, family, and school work. Needing Normal is an absorbing character-driven drama that will entertain teenagers and adults alike. Jett is a riveting protagonist that you instantly start rooting for, and her relationships with her friends and family drive the narrative. Constantly called exceptional, all Jett wants is to be seen as normal. But it is her unique personality and outlook that set her apart and let her shine. All the members of Core5 are well-realized. The plot is a slow burn, yet you can't take your eyes off the pages. I will highly recommend Needing Normal as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tiffany Ferrell

Jett Harper isn’t your average fourteen-year-old girl. She’s far from what would be considered normal. While her father accepts her as she is and encourages her to be herself, her mother has expectations that her daughter becomes a popular student in her new school year. She wants Jett to be normal. Jett knows she’s brilliant so failing her first written essay in foundations class leaves her reeling and confused as to how she got an F. She’s sent to the school social worker who explains that the teacher had asked the students to write about how they experience love, while Jett wrote a more scientific take on what love is. It wasn’t personal and Jett had trouble understanding what that meant because she didn’t understand a concept like love, or if she even knew what it meant. Finding out the project of the year would be about love, Jett is paired with a group of four students who couldn’t be more different. As the school year continues, Jett sets to work trying to find out what love means to each person, along the way discovering what love means for herself and that fitting in and being popular isn’t that important. Normal and typical are in the eyes of the beholder and different for each person.

Needing Normal by Emme Grange was such a powerful and relatable read for me. As someone who is on the spectrum, I could definitely identify with the struggles that Jett faced in not being able to understand or comprehend things that come easily to others. Like Jett, it was hard for me to navigate through elementary and middle schools, and by high school, I was pushing the real me deep down inside to appear normal to my peers. I think a lot of people on that spectrum can relate to Jett. She is so well written that you find yourself stepping into her shoes as you go through her journey of finding out what love is and if she is capable of feeling and expressing it. The supporting characters are also very well written. Needing Normal hits close to home in how Jett’s father at least tried to understand her, but her mother just saw her as a problem that needed fixing. The storyline is well done and is at a nice pace that keeps the reader interested. Emme Grange has written an amazing novel and I cannot wait to see what else she writes.

Vincent Dublado

Needing Normal begins with a parent worrying about her daughter for not being normal. Author Emme Grange explores what it is like to be normal when you don’t seem to fit into the standard patterns. Jett Harper is a normal girl, and despite nailing the admissions process to begin her life as a high school freshman, her mom is worried that Jett might be bound to fail simply because she shows no interest in doing girly things. All she wants is to excel in school and, given that social and emotional development varies from person to person, prove that she is normal. It is ironic that she fails her essay on love that is backed up by strong hypotheses, data, and footnotes, and she can only suspect that her teacher, Ms. Diaz, believes that her work is plagiarized. And then she has to pair with four of her classmates for a project that will compete for the Freshman Faire. Carlos the Athlete, Ruby the Princess, Andy the Brain, and Sam the Rebel make up her Core5 team, which makes her wonder if she is the designated basket case. As they work together, Jett may well find the answer if her mother is right or if she is simply misunderstood.

These five kids have nothing in common, but whether they like it or not, they have to work together and set aside their differences. Emme Grange understands the ways that are peculiar to teenagers, particularly about their self-image. The Core5 only seems to be interested in getting through the project, at least in the beginning, anyway. And Grange manages to articulate this simple conflict by making Jett and her classmates grow and understand one another in the process. Standard typical hang-ups among teens and how they come to deal with it is the core message, and that’s what makes this story appealing especially for young adults. Grange has effectively created teenagers that are relatable to teenagers. Needing Normal may appear like your typical high school freshman blues tale, but the storyline is wonderful, and it is definitely an appropriate must-read for teens and adults.