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The Last Exit to Normal Mass Market Paperback – September 8, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2008:
"Because [Harmon's] take on people is convincing, audiences will want to believe in his story, too."


Starred Review, School Library Journal, April 2008:
"It is filled with atypical character interactions that make it an excellent read."


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Michael Harmon lives in Spokane, Washington.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044023994X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440239949
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,279,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Life was going along just fine for Ben Campbell until he hit fourteen. That was the year his father announced that he was gay and his mother left. His dad's boyfriend moved in, and Ben started counseling -- and also misbehaving.

Now, after three years of run-ins with the law, Ben's dad has decided the only way to save Ben is to leave Spokane. At age seventeen, city boy Ben finds himself living in Rough Butte, Montana. Edward, who Ben calls Momdad, has agreed to take them back to the hometown he left when he was Ben's age. In Rough Butte, Ben is surrounded by homophobic cowboys, Edward's acid-tongued mother, Miss Mae, and an abusive neighbor with a strange young son.

Used to doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants, quickly ends for Ben as Miss Mae schools him in acceptable country behavior. She expects respect and hard work, and she doesn't hesitate to use her wooden spoon as a weapon to encourage it. Ben reluctantly falls in line and even finds it rewarding at times. His father and Edward seem pleased for the most part, and his improved attitude and behavior are useful in his quest to attract the attention of the beautiful girl living just four doors down the street.

There are still frustrations for Ben. Completely forgiving his father for trashing his life back in Spokane is proving harder than he expected. Rough patches between father and son keep tensions high, and to complicate matters, Ben becomes convinced that the young neighbor boy is the victim of dangerous abuse. Ben's efforts to seek justice for the boy create a whole new set of problems.

It is almost impossible to turn the pages fast enough in THE LAST EXIT TO NORMAL. Michael Harmon's protagonist is one-of-a-kind.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a high school librarian, and I am constantly looking for good YA books to recommend to my students. This books fits the bill and more!

Before the story begins, we find out that Ben's father came home and announced that he was gay; Ben's mother flew the coop; Ben's father's friend Edward moved in, and Ben went wild and did terrible things in a three-year rebellion period. When the story opens, Ben's wild period has ended, albeit with a police record, and, desperate to help their son, Ben's dad and "momdad" have moved kit and caboodle back to Edward's hometown of Rough Butte, Montana, to live with Edward's ancient mother, Miss Mae.

While the story is filled with typical city-boy-moves-to-country gaffes and humor, it is also a poignant story of seventeen-year-old Ben's getting to know not only himself, but also his dad and Edward. Under Miss Mae's hawk-like eyes, Ben learns about hard work and the value of money. The humorous episodes, i.e., his first shopping trip to buy Wranglers and a Stetson, his first bird hunting outing, and his first experience of baling hay, are interspersed just enough to lighten the mood and keep the serious stuff from getting too heavy.

And there is some really heavy stuff going on in Rough Butte. Between the redneck neighbor who beats his son and locks him in the closet, the psycho who does not like Ben coming along and dating his former girlfriend and vows to stop it in any way possible, and an overturned tractor which lands on it driver, Ben finds plenty of drama in Rough Butte.

I read this book very quickly because I wanted to know what happened. I enjoyed it a lot, and I know that the kids will also. I highly recommend it not only for teenagers, but also for adults!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I opted to fetch this book from the library, not certain if I'd enjoy it enough to own it, but I'm now planning to purchase a copy as I intend to re-read this in my spare time (whenever that comes to pass). Last Exit is one of those gems of a novel I want to push out into the world and have others enjoy and since I lend a lot of books, it's one that will go into my permanent collection.

Benjamin is a troubled seventeen year old. That kind of character seems all too familiar, right? But the how and why of Benjamin's angst is far from normal. After his father comes out and reveals his true sexual orientation, thus destroying his marriage and sending his former wife running for the hills, Ben sets out on a course of self-destructive behavior. The formerly "good kid" takes up smoking pot, petty crimes and slacking at school. When a bad decision leads Ben on a high speed chase with the cops, ending in a car accident, his dad finally has enough of Ben's acting out.

After packing up the minivan, Ben's dad and his partner, Edward, leave their home in Spokane, Washington and head off to Rough Butte, Montana, where Edward grew up. The already tense family dynamic is pushed to the breaking point in this new fishbowl environment, where everyone knows everybody else's business and homosexuality is not a welcome lifestyle. Coupling that with Miss Mae's (Edward's mom) acidic personality, things reach a boiling point fairly quickly.

But sometimes we need that kick in the butt wake-up call to get us moving in the right direction and, though fraught with a myriad of complications, Rough Butte seems just what the doctor ordered for this ailing family. Ben finds himself constantly tested by the next door neighbor, Mr.
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