Book Review: Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal
Narrated By: Jessica Almasy
Published By: Recorded Books
Publication Date: July 2011
Audio Length: 5 hours, 17 minutes
Source: Library
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

On the Story & Writing:

I have always been drawn to books that take place in the South so I expected to love this one. It's a book about a quirky farm girl who doesn't quite fit in at school and runs with an oddball crowd. This sort of read is usually right up my alley, but this one fell flat for me. It wasn't great. It wasn't bad. It just was.

I think my biggest problem with this novel was the characters. I never truly clicked with any of them. I never got to the point where I truly cared about any of them. Janie, the main character, is also a bit of whiner. Aren't we all at fourteen? But it was pretty annoying - I am sure people thought the same about me at fourteen. 

Another issue is the ending. There wasn't a clear resolution for me. Life is just going to continue on its ho-hum route for these characters, but I would have liked something concrete to happen. We don't even get to attend the big party that has caused Janie so much embarrassment for very long. I really felt like the plot and characterization in this one just skimmed the surface. There was so much potential, but it never truly developed. I just found myself ignoring Janie's narration for daydreaming more often than not. 

The one thing that kept me reading this and swayed my rating up a notch was the link to the Civil Rights movement. All the elements of story pertaining to this strand were top notch and kept me entertained. I found myself frustrated when the plot would meander back to the mundane halls of high school.

On the Audio:

I love Jessica Almasy, but it took me awhile to stop hearing her as Belly (from the Summer trilogy by Jenny Han) and have her become Janie. She did a beautiful job narrating - as always. It would have taken me longer to finish this one if I had been reading on my own, but Almasy kept me listening. I especially loved her portrayal of Monster.

One Last Gripe: Sarah's constant "know it all" attitude really irked me.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The history projects

First Sentence: No one can figure out where the terrible smell is coming from, but everyone on the bus this morning can smell it and has an opinion.

Favorite Character: I didn't have one

Least Favorite Character: Sarah

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.