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Normal People Don't Live Like This

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  551 ratings  ·  83 reviews
At the center of this startling fiction debut is Leah Levinson, a teen at sea in the anonymous ordeals of a middle-class upbringing on the Upper West Side in the 1970s. In ten installments, written from varying perspectives, we witness her uneasy relationships with faster, looser peers—girls she is drawn to but also alienated by.

No one, though, alienates Leah more than her
Hardcover, 181 pages
Published 2009 by Persea Books
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3.45  · 
Rating details
 ·  551 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Laura Leaney
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful and agonizing. Dylan Landis writes from the poetic heart of female adolescence, and it matters not a whit that no teenager (that I can imagine) would have the technical virtuosity to articulate the fear, the longing, the anxious insecurities, the love, and the loathing that her protagonist Leah Levinson does in such breathtaking prose. For me, this book is about emotional truth.

Leah has friends. One of them is Angeline. This is what Landis writes:

Angeline Yost keeps a swit
The perfect backdrop for slitting your wrists especially if you're reading it while listening to Joni Mitchell's "Blue" album. Warning: hide all knives and scissors before settling in with this book.

Gave it 3 stars because while the writing was a 5, my enjoyment of the book was a 2; I realize technically that comes out to a 3.5, however half stars are not yet an option on goodreads. Did I mention that this book is unrelentingly depressing? When I read the first page I was anticipating an experi
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was surprised when I started reading this, Landis' debut novel, that the main character from her latest book, Rainey Royal, featured so heavily at the start of this one, until I realised that both books act as companion pieces, this one concentrating more on Leah Levinson, who we also read about in the latter work, albeit in a more 'bit part' way.

Landis certainly doesn't pull any punches, and there are many shocking moments in this book, which is really a selection of short stories about the
Mar 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fun-or-frivolity
I enjoyed this book; once I got started, I devoured it in a few days. It was a bit of an uncomfortable read, though: I liked and identified with Leah, the main character, but in addition to the awkwardness that I had at 13, she also has some OCD. Plus some more regular awkwardness. It was the kind of story that leaves me feeling embarrassed as if I was the one who did all these awkward things myself--not a comfortable feeling, but a sign of good writing.

One thing I found strange, though: the boo
Holy friggin' crap. I knew this book was going to be good after I heard Landis read an excerpt in NYC. Happily, she delivers. And delivers. And delivers.

A novel in stories, Normal People Don't Live Like This is painfully arresting, filled with characters who practically hum with heartache and longing, and are driven to various acts of rebellion and rage that make you wince and wonder, what next? Landis has perfected the art of the opening, with beginnings like this from "Jazz":

"It is not true t
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
I'm depressed, this book is depressing. Whether those two things are interacting is questionable, but it makes the state interaction work quite well. It also perhaps makes me more susceptible to empathy for the character and association. sliding from normal people don't live like this to normal people don't feel like this to I'm not normal to suddenly no one is normal. I make no promises that the book will slide that way for everyone. In fact for all my friends out there who tell me how they hat ...more
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So what DO normal people live like? Dylan Landis captures one such person - Leah Levinson, a spirited and obsessive teenager growing up in 1970s New York City - in full detail, at pivotal points in her evolution from insecure teen to an increasingly adventurous but still risk-adverse college-age student.

In ten beautifully-written portraits - which, like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, can each be read as a standalone story or chronological snapshots - Ms. Landis reveals truths about Leah, h
Cheryl Klein
Apr 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I tore through this book in the same manner I devoured Prep--something about my apparent hunger to see an angsty female adolescence given literary weight. Landis shines her considerable literary light on moments and images: for example, the care her bisexual protagonist devotes to touching a pregnant friend's wrist rather than her stomach. It's a book of rooms (the mother character is a designer, so this is both literal and figurative); there's sturdy architecture here, but it's often masked by ...more
Jan 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Landis has constructed an overall good book. I was excited to read a "coming-of-age" story with this specific setting, and I was intrigued by how much I related to Leah. Her uncertainty, family dynamics, and personality were well-crafted.

However, like some other reviewers, I found that this story jumped around a little to much for my tastes. There are glaring gaps in timeline, and the character development was left to the imagination.

I'm glad I read this novel, but it's not one to which I will
Unless she gets hit on the head and loses every ounce of writing ability, the next book will be five stars for sure. So fucking talented, this woman. Listen to this:

She loves jazz flute, the way it rises hotly through the leaves of trees, then curls and rubs along the roots. Jazz flute lives about two stories off the ground. It is a reedy ache in a place she cannot name.

Jazz is just about the only genre of music I don't like, but I may or may not have spent the rest of the evening listening to j
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
Stayed up late reading this superb collection of linked short stories. The characters are intense and immediate, refusing judgement or easy answers as we follow them through stories as complex and difficult and true as the girls themselves. The language, precise and poetic, laced with a sly and intelligent humor, creates a stunning platform for the keen insights and moving narrative of the lives of these girls, their secrets, their darkness, and their light.
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is gorgeously written and contains little gems of insight or description on every page. This book is marketed as a novel in stories, and the characters in the different parts overlap. It is a testament to the strength of this book that it left me wanting to know more about all these characters.
Highly recommended.
Sarah Honenberger
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Stunning, difficult and worth reading:
Style is definitely unique. Dylan read clearly and with perfect dramatic emphasis at the Virginia Book Festival. Story line is thin, but it fits the voice. Teenagers and family dysfunction in a refreshingly honest--no blunt--take. I'd read her next book, hope it's soon.
Nov 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Collection of inter-linked short stories. Good short fiction writers always amaze me with the depths they are able to go in a condensed number of pages and this was no exception. Beautifully written and some really interesting and complex parts. Some chapters were sort of gnarly, though, so not for the weak of heart. Overall I really enjoyed this.
Katherine Owen
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Dylan Landis is talented, smart, and savvy. Her writing is brilliant. Readers have to keep up because she expects you to in this story of Leah Levinson. This book will challenge you to hang on to the "ride" for dear life and keep up with what is going on in the story. Wonderfully written! It is one of my new top favorites of all time.
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I seriously loved this book. The characters are wonderful, real, alive, and freaky and the language is gorgeous, inventive and smart. Such a wonderful read. I highly recommend it, especially to those who love short stories and beautiful, captivating prose.
Helen Benedict
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Every word in this novel carries a punch. The wit is superb, not a second wasted. And oh, the ache of adolescence captured here! Brilliant writing.
Darlin' Neal
Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved this painful true book.
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A series of interlocked stories of amazing vibrancy. Landis's writing manages to be both lyrical and incisive, passionate and not without humor. A complicated, serious achievement.
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best short story collections I've ever read! Dylan writes honest, unflinching fiction with beautiful language and a keen eye for description.
Nov 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sharp and well-seen stories with a lot of heart.
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Had to stop reading after each story so that I could catch my breath and reorganize my brain cells from these mind-blowingly, gorgeously, heartbreaking stories.
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
interesting exploration from both the mothers and the daughters point of view
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The first story of this collection is breathtaking. Can't wait to read the rest.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not bad for a book I selected only by virtue of the title. There are beautiful bits of prose --
"...undetectable by any instrument save her own fear." “Leah’s heart sprouted like a seed. It took such thin nourishment, like the lima beans she grew between wet paper towels for science.” "She thought about these things, and in thinking them she ran a tender finger along the edge of her fear.”

Lindsay Heller
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
This book was good, there was no doubt about it. It just wasn't all that enjoyable or meaningful to me.

'Normal People Don't Live Like This' was basically about Leah Levinson, a teenager growing up in Manhattan in the seventies. The book is broken up into what could essentially be ten short stories. Some of which are written from the lead character's point of view and some aren't, but all collect to create a somewhat full story.

I did enjoy reading this, but I find that writing the review, a litt
Susan Pratt
Dec 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
I feel bad not liking this book since I had it on my Amazon wishlist since last Christmas and my son's girlfriend was sweet enough to buy it for me. It gets FANTASTIC reviews on Amazon and while reading some of the reviews I know why it ended up on my wishlist because it gets recommended to people who liked The Glass Castle and other similar books. It is a very dark book. Kids with scary issues that never get resolved...It is a collection of short stories about the tragic life of teenagers livin ...more
Jul 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
I read this book because it was recommended as similar to Jeanette Wall’s books. NOT SO. I found very little appealing in this book; however, I diligently and painstakingly read it to the end in order to discover what happens to the main character. Spoiler----Not sure what the heck the book is referring to in the end, and I am the literary reader my friends come to for explanations when they "don't get it." Possibly, some books are meant to confuse as life itself is confusing. I have enjoyed man ...more
Ethel Margaret
See my full review at StyleSubstanceSoul:

Using pen stroke instead of brush stroke, Landis’ understated storytelling is like a painting. Character traits and experiences—and preferred cigarette brands—are conveyed by illustration rather than explanation. It is a style that turns the banal poetic, and the hair-raising mundane. In the process, Landis is afforded the space to be candid and detached. She neither reveres nor pities her characters and their sordid affairs. Outlaw behavior may be scanda
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Dylan Landis is the author of the novel Rainey Royal, a New York Times Editors' Choice, and the linked story collection Normal People Don't Live Like This. She has won an O. Henry Award and published fiction in Bomb, Tin House and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She lives in New York City.