Francesca Martinez has a thoroughly engaging writing style that draws you in and keeps you reading right through to the last page. She starts her story in a light-hearted manner which helps the reader to relax and take in the issues that Martinez is describing in a sensitive but beautifully descriptive way. Towards the end of the book the reader sees more of Martinez's passion on the issues that matter to her, but still the engaging tone that pervades throughout continues.
Much of the book is biographic, with a description of Martinez's childhood and early career. As she was born with cerebral palsy her descriptions of how she was treated by peers and teachers at school, as well as doctors and others in the medical profession are both humorous and heart-rending. The contrast between her own wit and intelligence, and her determination to live every day to the full is in stark contrast to many of the able bodied characters we meet through the book, who take for granted their bodies, their looks and their so-called advantages.
Through reading her experiences in life the reader is taken very easily to Martinez's conclusion that what matters is our own attitude to ourselves and it doesn't matter what others think about us. If we try to conform to this world's 'normal' with all its pressures, we'll never be truly happy. 'Normal' is a concept created by society and the media, and not one of us can be said to be perfectly normal - we all have our problems, quirks and differences.
"As far as we know, we're the only human beings in the universe. Doesn't that make us all a bit freakish?"
Reading the book, particularly if the reader hasn't experienced friendship with, or been acquainted with, a disabled person, is extremely helpful. The words of advice and sensible approach that Martinez imparts gives one a greater sense of how to approach and work alongside a disabled person, i.e. just as you would any other person! Yes, someone with a disability may look a little different or move in a different way, but he or she has thoughts and feelings and opinions and they like to laugh and cry in just the same way as anyone.
Martinez has a wider lesson for us all though, whatever our circumstances. By learning to accept herself and particularly her 'wobbly' body, she has overcome what a lot of society cannot; we cannot and should not all be the same. Everyone has a talent and an offering to give to this life, and likewise, we all have a disadvantage of some sort. By focusing on the blessing of being alive and able to enjoy our time on this planet we can turn our lives around and live a more fulfilling life.
In some ways the essay on normality overshadows the impact of just reading about Martinez's life up to this point. She tends to over-labour the point somewhat, when the message has already been put forth adequately. Of course it is her point of view which is perfectly valid, but there are other points of view which she does not allow for; some people do physically suffer a lot and Martinez doesn't seem to account for these people.
Reading the book gives a true insight into the character and personality of Francesca Martinez. She is very likeable and open in her writing, which encourages those of us with events to organise to seriously consider booking her to speak. For inspiration, motivation and a lot of humour, Martinez is a great choice for an entertainment slot or after dinner speech.