Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
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- Why we read it: goat poop, hobby farms, first day of school stories, civil rights movement, an overrated normal
- Disclosure: Received a review copy from the publisher. Thanks!
Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation—and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much.Ellie's review:
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.
Dowell does a good job on the story, characters and the scenery. I was able to keep reading this book and enjoying it. It was targeted for an older audience, but that did not change my opinion.
I liked how it was not a perfect world, but sometimes it would seem so.
This book was just what I was looking for: farming, trying to fit in and of course GOATS (by the way goat poop does not stink).The only thing I did not like was how the farm seemed quite unreal; it was too clean.
All and all I would give this book: Four and a half stars out of five.
This book was so sweet, fun, and breezy, all my complaints seem too minor to even bring up. In fact, I really didn't have any complaints. Sure, everything wrapped up neatly and it was all very pretty and there wasn't a lot of grit to it, but the author won me over completely when she chose to write about a farm girl with an unconventional life style who wasn't a freak. I wanted to give Janie a hug and a high five the whole way through! Especially because of the way she handled her relationship with Monster. That was the biggest "Awwww" I've gotten out of a YA all year. I also enjoyed the civil rights subplot, which felt like a natural part of the story instead of window-dressing.
In short, THIS is the kind of book I'd like to see more of on the YA market. I think the skill it takes to write a book as light and lovely as this one is severely underestimated by too many people, and that's something that needs to change. The perfect book to share with your kids, younger siblings, or any young people in your life! Five out of five stars.