“What is normal?” actor and author Rachel Bloom asks at the beginning of I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are, her riotous collection of essays.
The creator and star of the hit TV show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" tackles this question from every angle. To begin, she examines growing up in Southern California as “a pale kid with transition-lensed glasses and a rolling backpack” who desperately wanted to be one of the popular kids. The only child of loving, if slightly overprotective, parents, Bloom struggled with feeling like a misfit and was later diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
She eventually found her place in the theater, where she discovered that “being a theater kid was an easy explanation for the reason I didn’t fit in. It meant that I was a cultured and misunderstood eccentric whose interests made me wise beyond my years.” Bloom studied theater at New York University and spent years working her way up in the industry. A viral video—the name of which isn’t fit for print here, but look it up, it’s hilarious—opened a window of opportunity, and Bloom was contacted by a screenwriter about creating a musical TV show.
I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are is a uniquely fun read in part because of the way that Bloom frequently switches formats. One chapter is a screenplay about why she loves theater, while another is a poem apologizing to all her former roommates for being terrible to live with, and she sprinkles excerpts from her real childhood diaries throughout. In addition to the laugh-out-loud portions, Bloom is brutally honest about her shortcomings, self-aware about her quirky approach to life and candid about the years of therapy that have helped her live with OCD.
The conclusion Bloom reaches, of course, is that there's really no such thing as normal. Perhaps even more to the point—who wants to be normal when you could live life as loudly and fully as Rachel Bloom?