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It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life...or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what's wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah's older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster--yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles...and we mean that as a compliment.
Frances O'Roark Dowell's fierce humor and keen eye make her YA debut literary and wise. In the spirit of John Green and E. Lockhart, Dowell's relatable, quirky characters and clever, fluid writing prove that growing up gets complicated...and normal is WAY overrated.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-05-09
- Reviewer: Staff
Making a confident move from middle-grade into YA, Dowell (Falling In) introduces readers to high school freshman Janie Gorman, a perky cool kid turned outcast. She encouraged her parents to move to a farm in North Carolina five years ago, but she now resents the change because her smelly farm chores, funky fashion sense, and her neo-hippie mother's blog keep her from fitting in ("hen I suggested we'd all be happier on a farm raising goats and baking bread, well, I'd meant it, but I didn't expect to be taken seriously"). Her friendship with her pushy best friend Sarah is feeling rocky, and as Janie slowly makes inroads with Verbena, a Sharpie-tattooed fellow outsider, and a musician named Monster, who unlocks her previously unknown musical talent, she begins to realize that coolness comes in many forms, and that being a wallflower isn't her style after all. "I'm the cute chick with the bass," she thinks. "Now that's a reputation I can live with." Janie's narration is sarcastic, contemplative, and sweet, which keeps this offbeat portrait of a tender age light yet believable. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
A farm girl who's far from normal
Janie Gorman strives to be a normal high school freshman, but the fact that she lives on a goat farm doesn’t help her much in her quest for “normal.” She hops on the school bus smelling of goat poop (thanks to her morning chore of milking the goats), and she eats lunch in the library, because none of her friends have the same lunch period as her. To make matters worse, Janie’s mom insists on writing an extremely embarrassing blog about “farm life.” None of these trials are made any easier by Janie’s knowledge that she was the one who recommended the move to the farm in the first place!
In a realistic and funny voice, Janie manages to make fun of herself and her peculiar situation in a way that provokes genuine empathy. She experiences her first real crush on a boy and feels the pain of trying to hang onto an old and cherished friendship in the face of quite a few challenges. She learns that making new friends can be just as wonderful as hanging onto the old, and she deals with the loss of someone important to her, learning a lot about herself in the process. She does all of this with humor and a great deal of self-awareness. Although she wants to be “normal,” she begins to embrace what it is that makes her different, and that is refreshing and fun to read.
Although Frances O’Roark Dowell is a best-selling and highly acclaimed author of novels for young readers, Ten Miles Past Normal is her first novel for teens. She lives up to her acclaim in this unusual coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old girl who is far from normal, but very endearing.