Normal People by Sally Rooney
The first part was excellent. Marianne is a high school outcast who barely registers, let alone cares, that she is an outcast. Connell is a well-liked, smart and athletic boy who is nevertheless awkward and introspective. Marianne is part of a rich family, and Connell is the son of their housecleaner. They begin a sexual relationship, which they keep secret. The secrecy is not because Marianne is associating with a working-class boy beneath her station; it’s ironically because Connell is dallying beneath his station in the high school popularity pecking order. Small spoiler for part one: Connell finds out after high school is over that a) everyone at school kind of knew all along about the relationship, and b) now that high school is over, it doesn’t matter at all that he was seeing Marianne, because that whole part of life is over. So all the secrecy was for nothing, and this hits him hard, because he knows he should have done better by her.
After that, the story seems to thrive on misunderstandings and unspoken things between Marianne and Connell, who both attend Trinity College. It became a bit less interesting as Marianne turned out to be not so much a free-spirited iconoclast but a broken girl from an abusive home; Connell became the more interesting character. I’ll try to avoid spoilers by stopping here, but the ending wasn’t bad.