Normal People Don’t Use Quotes


Taylor Schlein, Editor-In-Chief

Normal People by Sally Rooney is a triumphant depiction of love, miscommunication, and “right person, wrong time.” The novel takes you through the lives and ever-changing relationship of Marianne and Connell, starting with their final year of high school when the relationship began, and ending with the couple’s heartbreaking pause when they are around 21 years old. 

In the small imaginary Irish town of Carricklea, Marianne and Connell help each other navigate through past familial troubles, present insecurities, and future plans. What truly draws the reader into their lives is not only Rooney’s stellar writing but also how intensely familiar the reader will find each character. Both Marianne and Connell are incredibly relatable for any reader, and one can always find solace in the characters’ troubles and resolutions. 

A shocking, yet extremely important aspect of Normal People is the book’s lack of quotation marks. When one begins reading Normal People, they may be confused by the open dialogue and struggle to find when the narration ends and dialogue begins. This grammar choice is actually the crux of the novel— it helps to portray the couple’s near-infuriating miscommunication that often ends in a break-up and, eventually, a make-up. Throughout the novel, Marianne and Connell take breaks and rekindle their romance multiple times, and the reader is often left with a form of whiplash that can only be cured by diving back into the pages. Rooney’s decision not to include quotation marks helps push an artistic spin on a simple relationship.

Many readers of Normal People agree that there is just something about the book that is unique, or unmatched in other similar books. Laney Leone, a senior at Saint John Vianney and a fan of Normal People says, “The character Marianne was extremely relatable and I enjoyed the connection between how she was treated growing up, and how that compares to how she feels like she should be treated, which is something everyone can understand.” Leone points out that the evolution of the character’s personality, and, eventually, her love life, is largely formed by how she was treated as a child. One thing Rooney does remarkably well is that she creates a character arc that is realistic and yet astonishing in its intensity. Although both Connell and Marianne are completely different, they both change dramatically throughout the book while staying true to their original views and thoughts. This arc— for both characters— lets the reader see that who we become is largely determined by who we used to be, and yet there is always room for improvement and change. Part of the reason why Normal People is so enthralling is that it makes the reader feel seen and that, despite their insecurities, they are worthy of love. Rooney’s Normal People gives hope to all those who feel different, unlikeable, or simply average that they, too, can find love. 

The mixture of Normal People’s gut-wrenching writing, characters’ extraordinary normalness, and grammatical style is unmatched. You can purchase this book at any local bookstore, on Amazon, or even try a local library! It comes in hardcover, paperback, and digitally on the Kindle app, so it is very accessible (I recommend grabbing a physical copy so you can get a true feel of the story without quotation marks, as it will be easier to follow on paper than virtually). Normal People has also been adapted into a television show. It is one season, and you can watch it on Hulu— it is a phenomenal adaptation of the book, but you should read the book before watching the series to achieve the full understanding of Marianne and Connell’s relationship.