Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal
By Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publication date: March 22, 2011

My review:

Janie Gorman's freshman year is on a roll-in a bad direction. It isn't her fault that she accidentally stepped in goat dung on the way to school or that she is called Skunk Girl by her classmates. It is her fault that her parents decided to move to a farm when she was nine since she persuaded them that it was a fantastic idea and reminded them of their own wishes to live in the country. When she was nine it was cool to live on a farm and raise goats and other animals. As a teen, not so much, especially because of the smells associated with said farm and the embarrassing incidents at school. Janie's parents and sister love life on the farm and her mom even blogs about it but all Janie wants is to be accepted by her classmates and be like everyone else. Through a class project and joining the Jam Band however, Janie may discover that being "normal" is overrated.

Janie is funny and honest about her feelings. Her desire to fit in at school is something that many teens can relate to, especially starting high school and finding yourself separated from friends. When Janie is being true to herself, it is clear that she isn't meant to be like everyone else. Those moments when she isn't afraid to be different are some of the best in the book, like when she agrees to learn to play the bass for Jam Band even though Sarah doesn't approve.

This book is definitely more character driven than plot driven. There are plenty of fantastic characters in addition to Janie. My favorites are Monster Monroe, Mr. Pritchard, and Emma Lyman. Monster is unafraid of being himself. He has been different from birth due to his unconventional upbringing (his messed up parents really did name him Monster) and his size. His friendship with Janie is really sweet and he is a great influence on her. Mr. Pritchard doesn't have a lot of page time but he has an inspiring story to tell about his involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Emma is Sarah's "wild" older sister and Janie and Sarah look up to her because they think she is cool . As Janie gets to know the real Emma, she finds out that Emma has depth and is more than just a "wild child". Janie also realizes that she needs to step out from Sarah's shadow. The discoveries that Janie makes about these and other characters help her to develop as a person.

In addition to the characters I also loved that the book presented parents in a positive way. Janie may not have felt the same way about the farm that her mom did and there was some distance in their relationship at the beginning do to that but as Janie matures, she comes to understand her mom better. There are also some positive messages about being true to who you are and doing what you can to make a difference in your world. Ten Miles Past Normal is a coming of age story with a delightful heroine. I would suggest this to fans of Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen and Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern.

Readalikes: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

Note: I received an e-ARC of this title through Simon & Schuster Galley Grab in exchange for an honest review


  1. I loved Monster and really all of the characters in this sweet book. Great review!

  2. I really enjoyed this book too. Monster was a great guy, although I disliked that she chose to have him speak with poor grammar. I also loved seeing Janie step out of Sarah's shadow.

  3. I really have been wanting to read this book and the fact that it is character driven makes it sound even better. Great review!


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