Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of pages: 256
My copy: ebook from Galley Grab
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.
* * *
I am a city girl, and I am sort of proud of it. Sort of, because I know sometimes I imagine myself living somewhere remote, away from the rush and hustle and pollution of the city. However, I don’t think I can stay in the province too long — I kind of like the rush, and most of my friends live in the city, too, so staying away from them is kind of torture.
I think Janie Gorman from Ten Miles Past Normal would be able to relate to my sentiments pretty well. Fourteen-year-old Janie experiences a withdrawal from the city soon after she steps into high school, five years after she convinced her family to move to their own farm. Nine year old Janie was so excited to live in a farm after one field trip, and to her surprise, her parents agreed and they moved, making Janie the coolest kid in middle school. High school was a different story, though and she knew it the moment she went to school with hay stuck in her hair.
Janie just wants to be normal, but it’s hard when everything in her life pushes her to the “different” zone. As if her Farmville-like life wasn’t enough, her celebrity blogger mom tries to attempts to bond with her, she joins the Jam Band even if she knows little about singing, and she has to make a project about an influential woman — something that her best friend knows more than she does. And as if that wasn’t enough, her mom has to go and plan a hootenanny. Hoote-what? Exactly. Who’s normal? Janie isn’t.
The blurb gives away most of the plot, but don’t worry, it isn’t really spoilery. What makes Ten Miles Past Normal such a fun read is Janie. She’s a fun, creative and often cynical girl who just really wants to be normal and be noticed, but not in the way she often is. Janie’s far from being an outcast though — she’s just very different, and that difference is what makes other people wary about her. Her voice was absolutely delightful. I love her quips and her observations, and I find myself cheering for her as she discovers more of herself. The book goes from a flashback to the present time every now and then, but the author wrote it so well that you wouldn’t get mixed up in it. The other characters were hilarious, too, especially Janie’s mom (I kind of wished there was more shown to her blogger side), her new-found Sharpie-tattooed library friend Verbana, ultimate crush Jeremy Fitch and of course, Monster Monroe! Together, they all make a wacky cast of characters that I could picture very well — I think they’d all work very well on TV, too. :)
The lesson shared by Ten Miles Past Normal isn’t really new, but it’s nice to be reminded of it every now and then. Sometimes, you find yourself looking for other things you think you can’t find at home. But once you go back, you realize that they were just there, and you just couldn’t appreciate it in the first place. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell is a fun, coming-of-age story that is really suited for early teens but will entertain adults my age too.
Oh, and one more thing about me and the city: I just realized that where I live is already considered a rural area in reference to Metro Manila. Goes to show that maybe I’m already where I’m supposed to be. :D