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Book Cover Image: Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Rourk DowellTitle: Ten Miles Past Normal

Author: Frances O’Rourk Dowell

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “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.”

Thoughts: Ten Miles Past Normal is an adorable coming-of-age story that explores finding one’s path through high school. Engaging and funny, it is a very quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. Janie is an engaging heroine, and her voice is quite authentic. In fact, she reminded me of reading Connor’s writing, which never fails to make me laugh. Anyone who has ever had anything embarrassing happen to him or her at high school can definitely relate to Janie’s desire for normalcy. Yet, is being normal really desirable?

Ms. O’Rourk Dowell’s writing is simply fun. Her characters are larger than life but thoroughly realistic. They blaze their own trails and live large. If one needs a lesson on how to experience life without succumbing to peer pressure, Ten Miles Past Normal is a manual to do just that. It does this without being preachy and does it in a very charming way.

Adult fans of young adult fiction will enjoy Janie’s predicaments and life observations. The target market will find a kindred spirit in Janie and Monster. Ten Miles Past Normal is a refreshing break from the paranormal romance. Reminiscent of Anne Shirley, with her own quirks and foibles, I hope you get the chance to get to know and enjoy this plucky heroine.

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