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Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

June 3, 2011

When Janie was nine, she thought it would be fun to live on a farm and raise goats, and told her parents so.

Of all ideas for her parents to take seriously, why did it have to be this?

Okay, the goat farm was fun for a couple of years. Until Janie started high school and the goats became a huge source of embarrassment. There was the hay in her hair incident, the rash on her legs, and, most recently, the goat poop on her shoe that stunk up the entire school bus. All Janie wants now is to be normal. Which is hard to do when all her middle school friends have a different lunch period and Janie’s is full of the most popular kids in school, so she exiles herself to the library every day during lunch. And though Janie and her best friend share one class, they don’t seem as close as they once were. But thanks to an older student named Monster and Janie’s best friend’s older sister, Janie starts to realize that maybe she doesn’t have to be normal to find a place to fit in.

I think I enjoyed this one more as an adult reader than I would have as a teen. Which is not to say that it doesn’t have teen appeal, because it definitely does. It’s just that I think adults like myself will find details like Janie’s mom being “a freelance journalist, which is to say a writer who doesn’t make any money,” who quit her job as a reporter and began writing a memoir chronicling the family’s move to Farm World (as Janie calls it) based on the blog she started writing to chronicle the family’s move to Farm World, much more amusing than teens. (Bonus points to Dowell for coming up with such a quintessentially perfect title for the mother’s blog, Gone Country: Notes on a Homemade Life.)

And since I’m trying to finish this before I start the 48 Hour Book Challenge, here’s what else I remember liking about Ten Miles Past Normal: the characters; it’s pretty short for YA books these days; the balance of quirkiness with relatability (a word I apparently just made up, but you know what I mean); likewise, the balance of humor with more serious elements. For actual reviews, I agree with practically everything Abby and Sarah wrote about the book.

Book source: public library.

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