Saturday, 30 July 2011

Review: Ten Miles Past Normal

Title: Ten Miles Past Normal
Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publisher: Atheneum
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

When Janie was younger, she was enthusiastic about a lot of things that have proved to be major dissapointments. Such as living on a farm and going to high school. Moving out of suburbia and into a farm was the idea of nine-year-old Janie, and the only one of her ideas that her parents have ever taken seriously. Five years later, she is known as the strange girl who shows up to school with hay in her hair or goat poop on her shoe. High school has proven to be much more difficult than she had anticipated, and has distanced Janie from her middle school friends, except for girl-with-a-cause, Sarah. After two months of high school, she is still eating her lunch quickly at her locker and spending lunch hour alone in the library. How is Janie supposed be a normal fourteen year old when she lives on a goat farm and constantly smells of manure? Normal doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Janie when she meets a boy named Monster, is introduced to the coolness of the bass guitar, befriends former civil rights activists and becomes involved with a hootenanny. Will she ever get the hang of high school?

Like Janie is too old to be enthusiastic about farming, I think I’m a bit too old for this book. I probably would have liked it more if I’d read it 7 years ago, when I was Janie’s age. Anyways, I read a good review for this book somewhere, and I really liked the cover. I was expected a really quirky book, sort of like Alice, I Think by Susan Juby. This book kind of fell flat for me. I never really warmed to Janie, who I found to be a fairly ordinary girl with family and friends that are more interesting than her. The beginning of the book was a bit boring, with a lot of complaining from Janie. She has a tendency to go off into a side story that distracts you from the main narrative. Which was very awkward. The second half of the book was more entertaining, with the introduction of some quirky characters and a subplot concerning the Freedom Schools and the civil rights movement (extra brownie points for the inclusion of history.) One thing I can say about this book is that it realistically portrays starting high school. As someone who was also seen as weird, I spent many a lunch in the library. Just like Janie, I soon found my footing and some friends, and learnt that being ‘normal’ is vastly overrated!

A good book for middle schoolers, Ten Miles Past Normal is a sweet story about growing up and finding your way in high school.


“Now it’s time to enter Farm World with my mental mixed bag of feelings. The farm is beautiful! (It smells.) It’s natural! (It makes me smell, naturally.)) It’s environmentally friendly! (It’s an environment that produces teenage girls who are shunned by their peers for smelling like their environment.)”

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