Title: Differently Normal
Author: Tammy Robinson
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 30th January 2018
Synopsis: Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.
For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.
Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.
DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .
‘A funny and poignant tale about first love. Tammy Robinson is a natural storyteller.’ Nicky Pellegrino
Differently Normal is the story of first love, but also about the love of family and what people are willing to do for each other. Maddy Baxter’s life is about routine: the routine of work, and the routine at home she and her mother have to follow to keep her younger sister, Bee, happy and safe. Bee’s autism and epilepsy have meant this rigid schedule has left little time for much else. Bee loves her horse riding though, and a special stable that helps kids like Bee has just taken on a new worker: Albert, saving to leave home and start a new life away from a turbulent family where he doesn’t feel like he fits in. This is where Maddy and Albert meet, and a friendship begins, slowly at first, and but soon blossoms into something else. Maddy soon finds herself allowing Albert in – cautiously at first, to protect her family. When she sees how he genuinely cares for Bee and unlike other people Maddy has known, is willing to help to put Bee first, she finds a way to be happy.
Differently Normal has elements of friendship and romance, of family love and of sacrifice. It does not shy away from the difficulties of life with a disabled family member, and Maddy’s experiences of the past colour her reactions to Albert. Albert’s relationship with Maddy and her family is a caring one – and through the novel, he consistently puts Bee’s needs ahead of his own, understanding Maddy’s need for routine and the absence of the unfamiliar. Whilst the romance element wasn’t the most important aspect for me, it felt more realistic than some others I have read, and allowed for Maddy and Albert to be who they were, and allowed for their characters to evolve together and apart. The goal wasn’t the romance – it was more about the journey and their romance that was a part of the journeys that they had to take.
What I liked about this book was that the focus wasn’t the romance between Maddy and Albert, that they were also allowed to be their own people and show vulnerabilities, and strengths to each other, but also the showed the sacrifices made for family, such as Maddy’s sister, Bee and her mother. The perfect love does not necessarily happen in this book, and that is perhaps why it resonates more – because life is not perfect and things don’t always work out the way we want them to.
In the end, it is a touching story about family to me, and what it means to live with disabilities that affect the person with them, and the way the family lives their lives. The romance between Maddy and Albert was a nice touch, but I found that Maddy’s story intertwined with her sister was more enjoyable, though all strands were in some way relatable and will be in different ways to different readers. Perhaps this is what makes it a unique story of first love – the focus isn’t the romance, there are many different focuses and each reader will get something different out of it that works for them.
Tammy Robinson is a contemporary women’s fiction author from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. After years spent working her way round the world, Tammy settled back in New Zealand with her husband, their two girls and a newborn baby boy. She has published six novels through Amazon, and DIFFERENTLY NORMAL was her first novel with Hachette New Zealand. She is currently working on PHOTOS OF YOU, which Hachette will publish in 2019.
Find information for Differently Normal here:
GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37955669-differently-normal
PURCHASE LINKS – paperback and e-book