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.