Lauren Collins at The New Yorker:
Rooney’s second novel, “Normal People,” was nominated for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, and will be released in the United States in April. According to The Bookseller, it was the year’s most critically praised book in the United Kingdom. Like “Conversations with Friends,” it is basically a romantic tragicomedy. The point is not so much the plot as the characters, and the heady relationships in and out of which they move “like figure-skaters, improvising their discussions so adeptly and in such perfect synchronization that it surprises them.” In the opening chapters, Marianne, a smart and unpopular high-school student whose single mother is a lawyer, begins a secret relationship with Connell, a smart and popular high-school student whose single mother cleans Marianne’s family’s house. “She just acted the same as always, like it never happened, reading her book at the lockers as usual, getting into pointless arguments,” Rooney writes. One of the unusual pleasures of Rooney’s novels is watching young women engage in a casual intellectual hooliganism, demolishing every mediocrity that crosses their paths, just for the fun of it.