Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
This charming title is a perfect choice for a summer beach read or a last minute book review. At just over 200 pages, it goes quickly and readers will easily fall under the spell of the quirky Janie Gorman. The the high school freshman aspires to is to be normal, like the rest of the kids, but it seems far from her grasp as she gets on the high school bus at the beginning of the school year with goat poop on her shoe. “Farm girl strikes again,” Janie thinks to herself as the rest of the bus tries to figure out what the terrible smell is. In her younger days after a field trip to a goat farm, the nine-year-old Janie had suggested they live on a farm. Instead of looking at her like she was nuts, her back-to-nature parents actually bought a small goat farm in the outskirts of their community. Although Janie loved it as a child, now her mom has become known as a country woman blogger, and the last thing Janie wants is to milk their goats every morning before school and have their family’s personal stuff out there in the blogosphere.
Although this coming-of-age story has many of the typical elements (not fitting in, loss of old friends, potential new friends and hiding out in the library during lunch) writer Dowell gives her first person narrator a smart and slightly sarcastic voice, making the character real and engaging for the readers who will find themselves waiting to see if the tall kid who’s real name is Monster will actually teach her how to play the bass guitar. I recommend this to teen readers looking for a fast, fun story that isn’t drowning in the usual teen angst. This book would be a great choice for fans of Jennifer E. Smith’s books.