I detached my climbing harness and walked up the decaying steps towards the light-covered podium. A strange ringing sound came from the podium, growing louder as I got closer. Once my foot stepped into the light, a sudden warmth washed over my body.
An ancient chant began replaying in my head.
The guidance of the Sun lights the path. Father time decides the fate of the living and erodes the dead. Mother nature’s wrath has no bounds, nor does she apply restraints. To embrace divine absolution, one must give sight to…
I took a moment to check on my supplies: a fully stocked first aid kit, loaded flare gun with an extra shot, extra yards of rope, my sharpening stone for my pickaxe and combat knife, and an extra flashlight.
I checked my axes, making sure there was enough wire between them and my harness. Deep breath in and out, I approached the cliff edge, looking down into the seemingly endless pit. At the very bottom flashed a strange blue light, flickering, enticing me to reach for it.
Seeing the small exit just a few feet away, I went for a final leap to try and clear the gap as fast as possible. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t as graceful as other fictional explorers; I came in for a hard landing, covering my face as I crashed into another room, free of traps.
Rolling onto my back, my chest struggled to breathe in the clean air. After a few violent coughs, my lungs managed to suck in a large gasp.
I grunted, “This treasure better be worth all this goddamn trouble…”
I glanced down at the pit below me, feeling my heartbeat on the edge of exploding. From all my years of exploration and tomb raiding, never have I had to deal with a trap like this, let alone deal with traps altogether. Thank God my hook was long enough to reach the edge of where I fell through.
I kept my fingers on the trigger of my grappling hook, making the mechanical took slowly pull me up. The spiked pit below slowly faded into darkness as I rose back up to the floor.
The walls seemed to come alive the deeper I went into the city. My tactical flashlight lit up everything in front of me, from the cracks and breaks in the structures, to the clay pottery that littered the ground.
I looked all around in awe at the amazing sight of a long forgotten ancient city. It must have been wonderful to live here, selling all kinds of wares and trinkets to others. Just imagine seeing children running around as their parents traded and bartered for a living.
I sighed with content. However, I froze when something shifted under my foot.
“I’ve only dreamed of entering these ancient halls. And now, I’m trying to unravel the mystery behind its cover-up.”
Rachel couldn’t contain her excitement—she was finally beginning to solve her life’s work, years of research and planning now converging onto her largest and most grand exploration. The cold air of the tombs whistled through the aged walls, rustic rock statues stood high among the rubble. And Rachel planned to go straight into the central chambers to find what she was looking for.
She brushed her hands against the carved hieroglyphics, reading them out loud.
It was a strange sight, seeing the man run towards me; he was the first person who actually tried to come and save me. Everybody else ended up either falling off of the cliff, or went insane trying to navigate the twists and turns of the cave.
I almost felt a bit bad about watching him get captured by my shadows on the wall.
I watched him from a couple feet away, his whole body being swallowed by the shadows. Curious, I approached him and went into his pockets, finding the note and taking it.
It felt a bit weird being the only person in the entire house right now. Having gone from the second floor and now down into the basement, Darren was still nowhere in sight. He didn’t call out whenever I tried to find out where he was. Maybe the lunch theory was still sound?
Regardless, I had to check out the basement, just to cover my tracks and make sure he really wasn’t here anymore. Aside from looking for one of my guys, I ended up finding a few other things, both worrying and confusing. Every new discovery in the house added to the realization that we didn’t really know what kind of house we were flipping.
For a split second, I regretted buying this house, thinking that all of the work we put in turned out to be a giant waste of money. But we were determined on making this house from the ground up. We planned on making a living off of this house.
But first, I had to get through this disgusting smell of musky wood.
When I reached the center support beam I could feel the cold dampness radiating straight off of the wood. Water drops were tricking down the wood at a sluggish pace.
Christ, this isn’t a good sign.
It was a worrying sight, seeing part of a wall fall apart.
“Damn it,” I huffed under my breath. “Still nothing. Where the hell is this guy?”
What do you get when you have a protagonist who’s curiosity gets the best of him, becomes the vice-president of an all but normal club, and has to learn how to deal with a robot-like girl? Throw in a few comedic anime tropes, a small cast of diverse characters, and an awkward, budding romance, and you’ll get this nice little light novel.
Do You Want to be Normal? is an original story by Koji Kojou, with beautifully done cover art by Mei Lin. The story follows the high school life of William Jackson, your below-average, good-spirited protagonist who gets ridiculed by other students for being easily emotional. After seeing a poster for an after-school club called “The Normal Club,” he has his first conversation with the smartest person in their grade and a beauty to the eye, but was far from “normal.” Alyssa Silverstein, otherwise known as “Alyssa the Alien” by her schoolmates, is an emotionless, monotone, high school girl with a rather robotic personality. Always looking for what is considered to be the “social norm,” she ropes William into various experiments and trials in order to gain a better understanding about what it means to be a normal. Along the way they manage to gather a small group of people to help expand the club, conduct group activities, and help each other truly find themselves and what “normal” means to everybody.
Right off the back, Kojou establishes that the main theme in this comedic, anime-style story is what it means to be “normal.” Across eleven chapters in this one novel, we see William, Alyssa, and the rest of the Normal Club go through a number of different trials and situations to help one another grown as a person. Each chapter is broken up to parts, acting like different scenes and events, which helps control the pacing and overall speed of the novel. This allows the reader to get a little bit of everything while they’re reading it: comedy, awkward tensions, some background history, the whole nine yards. And with the way it’s written, it actually works quite well when the reader wants to visualize everything as if it’s an actual anime that can be viewed online or on television,. Kojou’s use of common anime tropes and events doesn’t make it feel like some old run-of-the-mill light novel or anime that follows the exact same story plot in the exact same order. Each character helps create each scene and event that goes down, making everything feel cohesive and unique to the story.
That being said, there are a few things that shift the story in a strange direction at times. Without diving too far into the plot, there is one specific moment where we see William take action against something. And although the story was leading up to a dramatic point, what William does and how quickly he came to that point felt a bit out of character and rushed. Another moment is later in the novel when we’re introduced to another character. Even though the character is mentioned and does make an appearance, from the way the novel was set up, this one character doesn’t feel necessary. They could have been used just to provide more background information on the overall setting of the school, but from a plot point, they didn’t really add anything to the story; they felt like an extra that needed to be in a scene. Some may like what happens, while others may agree about it being a bit strange at points, but the best way to find that out is by buying the book and reading it for yourself.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Do You Want to be Normal? The story was well-rounded light novel. By putting a spin on common tropes and anime characteristics, Kojou created a small world inside of a book that could have easily felt like it could happen in the real world or have been a small series online. And you never know: maybe you’ll have a new outlook on what it means to be “normal.”
Do You Want to be Normal? Is currently available on Amazon in both paperback and kindle formats. If you want to learn more about Koji Kojou’s works and latest projects, follow him on his Amazon Author page and on Twitter. For more artwork from Mei Lin, check out her Twitter and Instagram pages.
The girl continued her laughing as she ran around another corner, her footsteps splashing in the growing pools of water. I kept shouting for her to come back, but she ignored everything. My feet grew cold as I stomped through the waters of the cavern, my clothes getting heavier every time I took the wrong step.
Out of breath, I stopped when I reached the next corner, holding onto the walls to keep me from falling over. I looked ahead to see what was down the way, and froze when I saw the girl.
The cliff above was nowhere in sight from the bottom of the ladder; I couldn’t see no more than a couple of meter above, the torch still in my hand. As I wandered around looking for my next cavern to walk through, I heard a young girl’s laughter coming from nearby. I spun around and saw a girl in a white dress staring at me in the distance.
I asked her if she was okay, but she immediately turned around and began running away, laughing the entire time.