THE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS BELOW ARE FOR READERS WHO HAVE FINISHED READING NORMAL.
1. Throughout the story, Rory is preoccupied with being "normal". How has her concept of "normal" evolved from the time she was a tomboy just looking to fit in, through the end of the story?
2. To truly understand Rory's experience, we must recall a time when we were young and naïve to relationships with the opposite sex. Did Rory's childhood and the fact that she maintained friendships primarily with boys play a role in making her particularly vulnerable to a potential predator? To that same point, did Cam's over-protective tendencies have an adverse effect in the long run?
3. After Rory breaks up with Robin, Cam confesses that he has been harboring romantic feelings for her all along. Why do you think he chose to keep those feelings to himself for as long as he did? How do you think Rory's story would have been altered had Cam confessed his feelings before she ever went out with Robin? Do you think Cam was a coward for keeping his feelings to himself, or selfless in allowing Rory the freedom to pursue a relationship he believed she wanted?
4. Throughout the beginning of their relationship, Robin seems to be a doting boyfriend to Rory. Do you think he was acting, or did he evolve into the controlling, abusive man he became? Do you believe he has any redeeming qualities?
5. Normal depicts a connection between alcohol consumption and instances of abuse and sexual assault. Do you believe that alcohol can be the cause for a perpetrator to commit these kinds of acts, or simply a trigger for behavior that is already lying under the surface
6. Rory suffers from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the story opens with her having overcome much of her depression, but still battling debilitating anxiety. Despite the strides she's made in her recovery, she tends to view herself as broken and weak. Do you think it's fair for Rory to compare herself to peers who have not lived through her adversity?
7. Rory and Sam's connection is instant, but their friendship, and eventual love, develops over time. How does Sam's family history predispose him to his affection for Rory? How do Sam's qualities attract her to him? What makes her trust him? Do you think there's a significance in his unwittingly introducing himself as "Sam" instead of "Cap", the nickname the rest of his peers call him?
8. Rory continues to grow throughout her relationship with Sam. Is Sam trying to "fix" her, as Rory accuses, or is his devotion to her more of a facilitator in Rory's own recovery? If so, which of his qualities help Rory move on from her past?
9. Sam tells Rory that she's stronger than she believes herself to be. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
10. Rory has internally compared Sam to both Robin and Cam. With whom does he have more in common, and why are those similarities or differences significant to Rory?
11. Sam seems to have a unique ability to help Rory past certain triggers, despite ostensibly embodying some of these triggers himself. How does Sam change Rory's perspective about generalities she's made in the past, including those about men and football players?
12. Similarly, Rory changes Sam's perspective on love and relationships, particularly those that can exist in high school. How does Sam handle the juxtaposition between what he always believed, and what he experiences himself? How does he reconcile his observation of his parents' failed marriage and his experience with his own relationship? Is he naïve in believing his love for Rory is different than what his parents' experienced at the same age?
13. Sam struggles with guilt and anger issues. Do you believe his experience with abuse as a child has played a role in his predisposition to violence as an adolescent? How does he reconcile his condemnation of his father's violence with his own? How does Rory change his perspective on his own self-recrimination, and why do you think she views his propensity to throw fists so differently from the way in which she views Robin's?
14. Sam deduces much of Rory's history before she reveals certain details, but her accidental revelation about her experience with sexual assault seems to affect him exponentially more deeply than the physical abuse he'd assumed she'd suffered. Why do you think Sam has such a difficult time comprehending this particular disclosure, and do you think Rory is jaded in downplaying the distinction between physical and sexual abuse? What of her experience has factored into her views on the issue, and is it a kind of denial?
15. Small town politics plays a significant role in Rory's history. How does Robin's family's role in their community affect Rory's relationship both before the abuse began, and after? How did Robin's reputation affect Rory's desire to pursue their relationship, and eventually, her sense that she had no way out of the relationship? How did it protect him from appropriate repercussions when Rory finally made her accusations?
16. Rory's father is more concerned with his relationships with the Forbes family than with those of his own family, and in the end, he chooses to protect his daughter's abuser rather than her. Do you believe that Rory's father truly believes his assertions that Robin would never intentionally hurt her? Is he attempting to rationalize Rory's allegations, or does he even care whether there is any truth to them or not?
17. While Rory's father is overly concerned about his relationship with the Forbes, her mother is distracted by her legal work on behalf of underprivileged families. Does the fact that Amy Pine, Rory's mother, devoted her time to a good cause make her any less responsible for missing the signs of Rory's abuse? Is her guilt justified? How has her role as a parent changed since she learned what had been going on?
18. Despite the pain he's caused, Robin consistently maintains that he loves Rory, even in Miami. Do you think he loves her? Does he believe he loves her? Does he understand what love is?
19. Rory chooses to end her romantic relationship with Sam in order to protect him from the complications of her life, and Sam accepts her choice with little question. Why doesn't Sam fight for his relationship? Is Rory truly doing what is best for Sam, or is she punishing herself with the life she thinks she deserves?
20. Do you think Sam and Rory can truly go back to being “just friends”? What kind of obstacles do you think they might face when they return home and must resume their daily lives?