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Normal People by Sally Rooney
Literary fiction

Normal People

by Sally Rooney

Quick take

Two misfits share an on-again, off-again romance in this wise coming-of-age story about friendship and belonging.

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This is a book about flawed characters and addresses themes of depression and abuse.

Why I love it

Grace Atwood
Founder, The Stripe

We all have had that one person who really just “gets” us and understands us when no one else does. Maybe it works out with them, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, they’re that person we keep going back to—for better or worse. Normal People explores that sort of (confusing) relationship. At its core, it’s about love—but don’t mistake it for a romance.

In a small town in Ireland, Connell and Marianne meet in high school. Connell is the popular one and Marianne is the weird girl that no one wants to be friends with. Gradually, the two strike up an unlikely relationship, which continues into their college years. There, the tables turn. Now it's Marianne who is popular—even as she struggles with her demons—while Connell finds himself suddenly irrelevant and adrift.

From page one, Sally Rooney drew me in. Rarely have I encountered a portrayal of a relationship—with all the vulnerabilities, insecurities, and ugly moments—that felt so ripped-from-the-pages of my own life. It’s a painful and depressing read at times, but it’s also so real. Can you handle it?

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At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Normal People.

Member thoughts

All (13502)
All (13502)
Love (5658)
Like (5450)
Dislike (2394)
13680 ratings
  • 41% Love
  • 40% Like
  • 18% Dislike
  • Olathe, KS

    A simple “plot,” but with characters so fully realized you can’t help but care for them. I appreciated that even until the bitter end, the author stayed true to the cadence of the characters’ dynamic.

  • Vermillion, SD

    It’s weeks since I’ve finished this, and even though it hasn’t escaped my mind, I still can’t put my thoughts into words. Love, love, love. I felt known, like I was reading a mirror. Will revisit soon

  • Denver, CO

    Still not 100% sure how I feel about this one. But few books are as gripping. I don’t normally obsess over what I’ve been reading, but I can’t stop thinking about this one... & I couldn’t put it down.

  • Sardinia, NY

    I enjoyed the beginning more than the end, but I also think the ending matches the rest of the book, even of it’s slightly disappointing. These characters aren’t happy, a HEA wouldn’t feel quite right

  • Montgomery , AL

    I wish there was a “liked a lot” rating. I found this book fast paced, interesting, and emotionally touching. However, the ending wasn’t fantastic. I really did enjoy it, though. It’s a good read!

  • Hamilton, OH

    Wow wow wow. I’m so glad I read this book. The characters are both relatable and you’re rooting for them, both when they’re together and apart. Even though I felt crushed by the end, I still love it.

  • Youngwood, PA

    This book makes a powerful statement about society and love—people change, and we have to either let love grow or let go. A beautiful book about who don’t need each other but keep coming back anyway.

  • Montgomery , TX

    I’m only eye rolling bc I wanted something specifically to happen and it didn’t. I loved this book! It’s a completely different type of read and approach to a romance type novel. Must read of 2019!

  • Weiser, ID

    Love this book! The writer keeps you captivated and no. Confused with switching timelines and stories. Such a brilliant way to write about “normal” people. A refreshing take on a modern day love story

  • Center Moriches , NY

    Wow fantastic read! This book hit so close to home because I definitely “hung out” with a couple of Connell’s during my high school and college years. Sally Rooney you speak to the new generation!

  • Los Angeles, CA

    I read this book in two days! I was so invested in these two peoples lives that I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. This book had great dialogue and wonderful pacing. I just wish it didn’t end

  • Brighton , MA

    Omg, I can’t say enough good things about Normal People! One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A complex story of class, familial relationships and the electric feeling of first love. SWOON.

  • West Islip, NY

    I loved it in a way that it made me miserable, and I’m having a hard time articulating specifically *why* I loved it, but I found it held me in a trance throughout and I can’t stop thinking about it.

  • Crozet, VA

    I enjoyed this book a lot. Not everyone’s like is perfect and this book reflected that. It allowed the characters to grow and change, but Marianne and Connell always found their “normal” together.

  • Scranton, PA

    This novel struck a real chord with me, and days later, I’m still struggling to decide what hit me. I think it’s the inability to let go of your first love and the fight between your heart and brain.

  • Wheaton , IL

    This book was not at all what I was expecting but a book that I just couldn’t put down. This is a must read & am now a fan of Sally Rooney. She allows you to experience depths of emotions unexpectedly

  • Irving, TX

    It was refreshing to read their points of view of depression/anxiety. I like how it didn’t have a cliche happily ever after, as that is true for people who struggle with these issues! Bravo for truth!

  • San Diego, CA

    I wasn’t sure how well this book would keep my interest at first but the characters drew me in. As you get to know them more you want to continue following them through their journeys and relationship

  • San Tan Valley, AZ

    It takes a special author to be able to capture the reality and brutal honesty of growing up and the complexity of one’s self and relationship with others. A book l’ll be thinking about for a while.

  • Phoenix, AZ

    It was easy to dive into these characters, but man was it unexpectedly dark. I don’t know that there was enough depth and character development to back up the darker themes that ruled these narratives

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