Whilst it's wrong to judge a book by its cover, a mere sight of D. J. Connell's second novel ''Sherry Cracker Gets Normal'' is enough to make me smile. The title is amusing; the colourful design enticing and the effusive praise for Connell's debut ''Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar" encouraging.
Inside, the delights continue. Sherry Cracker is a young woman working an ordinary office job. She lives alone, having been deserted by her own mother and largely annoys her boss, Mr. Chin, with her strange habits and idiosyncrasies. In her attempt to make more sense of a world that confuses her, she records much of what she sees and experiences in a folder. She thinks she's doing well at life, until one day Mr. Chin gives her £100 and a weekend and tells her she needs to become ''normal''.
''Sherry Cracker Gets Normal'' is a beautifully written book. Sherry notices and notes everything she sees and feels. Whilst this occasionally makes for a slightly unbalancing read, it's frequently fascinating. Rarely a moment passes that Sherry doesn't come across something worthy of comment, at least to her mind. Although the style falls slightly short of a stream of consciousness style, the first person narration and Sherry's eye for everything means that it comes out as a stream of interlinked observations.
Much of what happens in Sherry's town is slightly unpleasant, although immediately familiar to many of us. She is sexually assaulted, she is robbed, there are physical assaults, screaming harpies, runaway children, burglaries, kidnapping and a hard fought political campaign. There are strange pieces of graffiti appearing all over the place, security cameras being defaced and insults being thrown around like Frisbees on a summer day in the local park. But despite all this, ''Sherry Cracker Gets Normal'' never becomes heavy or depressing. Sherry sees the world with a kind of childlike innocence which is refreshing, even when bad things are happening. Her feelings, whilst often confused, are an open book and you can't help but like her.
In some ways, ''Sherry Cracker Gets Normal'' reminds me a little of Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time", which was another excellent book. Sherry exhibits some of the overly literal traits of Mark Haddon's narrator Christopher Boone. Sherry comes across as possibly mildly autistic and certainly suffering from a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This combination gives her an unusual perspective on life and also helps warm the reader to her.
''Sherry Cracker Gets Normal'' is a tough book to pin down. Despite some of the slightly unpleasant events that happen to her, they are balanced out by moments of sheer delight and the book as a whole is a joy to read. I finished it delighted more by the sheer fun of the book as a whole than by how the story ended. In the midst of a world filled with ugliness, Sherry Cracker is a rare thing of beauty and this is a must for anyone unafraid of something just a little different, especially as it can be found for around the £4.00 mark from both the Amazon Marketplace or eBay, or for Kindle.
This is a slightly amended version of a review first published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk