Title: Ten Miles Past Normal
Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Genre: Contemporary/Coming of Age
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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. 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.
Review: I have not really read many coming of age books before, but I am glad that Ten Miles Past Normal was one of my first. It definitely showed me a different side of YA books that seemed to deal with the typical issues that surround being a teenager in a different way...and on a farm.
Maybe because I am new to the whole Coming of Age genre but the beginning for me was pretty slow to get into. I know it is probably coming for coming of age stories to have a long buildup, but for me the character was sort of getting lost in some of the back drop of the story. But towards the middle the characters and plot seemed to pick up a lot more. Janie was the epitome of the confused and idealistic teenager. She was really struggling with the fact that she was an outcast, and throughout the book she is kind of going through this "I want to find myself and disassociate myself from being a farm girl" kind of phase. And she chose every typical teenager route in the book to do it. From joining a band, to breaking the law, Janie is on a mission to become "normal".
This book really focuses on how, for some, the teenage years is really a hard time and the struggle that some teenagers have in "finding themselves". There is focus on friendships, dating, family life, and school life that are all the makings of a coming of age YA novel. I did really enjoy some of the characters in this book. They really complimented one another well without there being just a bunch of supporting characters. That being said, there were parts of the book, mainly in the beginning, where I find the plot moving way to slow, and it seemed like it was just going to be a lot of descriptions before any characters or even a real plot line was introduced. But that was over once we were introduced to the characters Monster and Verbena who add some depth and fun to the story.
Despite some factors, I did enjoy this book. There is a real fun semi- love interest in Janie's life that I definitely found to be apart of most of the highlights in the book. All in all, I felt like this book had a lot to teach, and pretty much put into words a little bit of every teenagers story, told from the point of view of, as Janie would say, a girl on the farm. I felt like somehow, every teenager would be able to relate to what Janie was going through. And how she gets to be, or realize, who she is by the end of the book. It definitely is a book that is quirky, deep at times, and has a linking aspect that every teenager and most likely some non-teens will be able to relate to.
Recommendations: I feel like this book has a lot to offer a lot of teenagers, and for those of you out there like me thinking about picking up a coming-of-age book, this is a good one to try out.
Writing Style: 3/5