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Ten Miles Past Normal Hardcover – March 22, 2011
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Ten Miles Past Normal
by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Middle School Atheneum 211 pp.
3/11 978-1-4169-9585-2 $16.99 g
When Janie Gorman was a little girl, she wanted to live on a goat farm. She sold her dream so well that her parents actually moved to the country (Manneville, North Carolina) and started a farm. Now, though, she is a ninth grader who knows that showing up with goat excrement on her shoe is not going to get her into the popular clique. Janie narrates her first year in high school with her sure, smart, sarcastic voice—probably the same persuasive voice she used on her parents. She lives far from her longtime best friend Sarah, with only her bicycle for transportation. High school becomes a little more bearable when two things happen: cute boy Jeremy Fitch and his jam band allow Janie into their group, and a school history project leads Janie and Sarah to aging civil rights activists. Dowell gets all the details of ninth grade right: the changing relationships with friends; the allure and disappointment of the forbidden boy; embarrassing parents; and how having a passion changes everything. The secondary characters are kids you would like to hang out with, especially Monster, the oversized, loving friend who is just too old to be Janie’s boyfriend, and Sarah’s cool, nonconformist sister Emma. Middle schoolers with an eye to the future will love imagining themselves into Janie’s world.
--The Horn Book, March/April 2011
A quirky coming-of-age for girls ready to discover their cool aunt’s stash of vintage copies of Sassy. In her first months of high school, Janie Gorman is discovering the unfortunate, not at all subtle differences between offbeat and off-putting as the daughter of a rather dilettantish farming family. Sure, she sews her own up-cycled clothes, creating skirts “made out of an old pair of jeans and some killer fabric scraps,” and embraces milking the farm’s goats, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline. But to catch the bus on time, Janie occasionally forgets to remove the hay from her hair or scrape the goat dung from her shoes, and it’s getting her noticed, in a feeling-forced-to-hide-in-the-library-during-lunch kind of way. Encouraged by the sweet, thoughtful and utterly misnamed Monster Monroe to “live large” and embrace her whole, idiosyncratic self, Janie and her best friend, straight-laced and super-academic Sarah, go all-in. They hurl themselves into a project highlighting local heroes of the Civil Rights Era, learn to play bass and accordion and outgrow a hopeless shared crush on hunky jerk Jeremy Fitch. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and the plot occasionally teeters under the weight of its many developments and down-home secondary characters, but Janie’s voice—anxious, funny and winning—holds it all together as she finds and takes her place at school and on the farm. - KIRKUS, February 15, 2011
DOWELL, Frances O’Roark. Ten Miles Past Normal. 224p. S & S/Atheneum. Mar. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9585-2; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9587-6. LC number unavailable.
Gr 6-10–When Janie was nine she persuaded her parents to move to a small farm. Now that she is 14, that life has lost some of its charm. She is rarely noticed at school, except for things like manure-scented shoes. Still, Janie is hopeful about high school, and she and her friend Sarah try branching out–joining Jam Band, making new friends, and working on an intriguing local-history project. There is a love interest (or two), and parental embarrassment, and Sarah’s cool older sister to look up to. But none of these standard YA novel tropes is handled in a standard way. Dowell brings a completely refreshing take on the coming-of-age novel. Janie is not suffering through anything harsher than trying to find her place in high school. That can be difficult enough, as the author seems to know. Janie is realistic, smart, crabby, emotional, loving to her family, not overly dramatic. Dowell’s writing is smart, lithe, and cheerful. The plot covers only a few weeks’ time, and the story flies along. It’s about making friends, keeping friends, trying to broaden horizons, meeting boys, seeing idols from a different perspective, and staying true to oneself without feeling lost in a big school. Throw in an interesting subplot about civil-rights history and you’ve got a rich book that will resonate with young teens who may not see themselves in other, darker, YA literature.–Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
- School Library Journal March 1, 2011
Ten Miles Past Normal.
Dowell, Frances O'Roark (Author)
Mar 2011. 224 p. Atheneum, hardcover, $16.99. (9781416995852).
Moving up to a big new high school can throw anyone off her game. For Janie it hardly helps her cool
quotient that her family is into sustainable living on a farm well out of town. Old friends are no longer in
the same lunch period, and boys might as well live on another planet. When she and friend Sarah track a boy they both like, the quest brings them to a weekly Friday-afternoon jam-band session and new musical and social vistas. Then a class project leads Janie to discover a couple of elderly townspeople who had been civil-rights leaders in voter registration, figures who deeply move her and enrich her view of both the past and present. Life turns around quickly, and somewhat miraculously, but this is a witty, poignant story about trying to fit in and finding a bigger world and a more secure self in the process.
--Booklist, March 1, 2011
4Q 4P M J
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Ten Miles Past Normal. Atheneum, 2011. 224p. $16.99. 978-1-4169-9585-2.
All fourteen-year-old Janie Gorman wants is a normal life so she can fit in at high school, but when your quirky family lives on a farm (or “farm-ette,” as she calls it), sometimes goat poop on your shoes happens—as does being called “Skunk Girl.” At first Janie hides in the library with the other losers, but soon her determination to have a better life pays off. First, she tries Jam Band, where a gentle giant named Monster teaches her the bass. Then, report research leads to some local but unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement, opening Janie’s eyes to the larger world. Soon, she finds room not just for the “big” feelings but also for all her family’s, friends’, and own quirks and comes to realize how overrated “normal” really is.
This delightful book is full of details about Janie’s world and its idiosyncratic characters. Especially wonderful is that readers come to know the characters gradually, with their quirks—like Janie’s clothes-making and talking to her goats—appearing one by one. Janie’s high school fears and disappointments, such as wondering if she has outgrown her best friend, will resonate with most readers, as will her thoughtful realizations about the important things in life. The book’s only drawbacks are occasional lapses in teenspeak (e.g., a boy saying, “I can’t abide”), and Dowell pointing out Janie’s “big feelings” rather than just trusting the reader to understand the import of those feelings. Nevertheless, this feel-good book should enjoy wide appeal.—Rebecca Moore.
The first-person present voice is perfect for this story, as it is the way teenagers really talk. There are also other ways kids can relate to this book, like Janie being an outcast in high school. Some components, however, do not feel realistic, like the lack of consequences for cutting school in one scene. This book will appeal to fans of Lisa Yee or Justina Chen Headley. 4Q,4P.—Emma Moran, Teen Reviewer.
- VOYA April 2011
A farm girl who's far from normal
Review By Emily Masters
Janie Gorman strives to be a normal high school freshman, but the fact that she lives on a goat farm doesn’t help her much in her quest for “normal.” She hops on the school bus smelling of goat poop (thanks to her morning chore of milking the goats), and she eats lunch in the library, because none of her friends have the same lunch period as her. To make matters worse, Janie’s mom insists on writing an extremely embarrassing blog about “farm life.” None of these trials are made any easier by Janie’s knowledge that she was the one who recommended the move to the farm in the first place!
In a realistic and funny voice, Janie manages to make fun of herself and her peculiar situation in a way that provokes genuine empathy. She experiences her first real crush on a boy and feels the pain of trying to hang onto an old and cherished friendship in the face of quite a few challenges. She learns that making new friends can be just as wonderful as hanging onto the old, and she deals with the loss of someone important to her, learning a lot about herself in the process. She does all of this with humor and a great deal of self-awareness. Although she wants to be “normal,” she begins to embrace what it is that makes her different, and that is refreshing and fun to read.
Although Frances O’Roark Dowell is a best-selling and highly acclaimed author of novels for young readers, Ten Miles Past Normal is her first novel for teens. She lives up to her acclaim in this unusual coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old girl who is far from normal, but very endearing.
Funny, wise, and artfully realistic, Dowell offers the upside of abandoning normal, embracing your own weirdness and barreling on with life."
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
When I began thinking about this review, my first thought was to rave about Janie. She's a smart, perceptive girl in her freshman year of high school who longs to have a circle of friends just as she did in middle school. Feeling like an outcast, she wants to be normal and to be liked. As the reader gets to know her, we see that she's actually extraordinary and a little offbeat in ways she doesn't give herself credit for. She designs her own clothes, she has musical talent, and, most importantly, she has an appreciation for people who are unique in their own ways.
She's also incredibly witty.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized most of the characters in this book were a pleasure to get to know. There is Janie's mom, a farm wife mommy blogger, Monster, the extremely tall musician who lives in an old Motel 6, Emma, the "wild child" and sister of Janie's best friend--they all surround Janie and show by example how not fitting in has its advantages.
There is also a subplot including three characters who truly lived fearlessly by creating a Freedom School during the Civil Rights Movement. The author skillfully brings Janie into their world to learn more, and be moved by, their courage to go against the norm.Read more ›
Janie just wants to blend in at school. She convinces herself that she doesn't need any new friends. After a few humiliating events, she just wants people NOT to notice her at all. I felt so sorry for her, because high school, as her mom said multiple times, is supposed to be a good time in someone's life. She felt alone and couldn't help but to think it was her fault, after all, she requested that they move to a mini-farm in the first place!
Then Janie and her best friend Sarah finally get the chance to talk to Jeremy, the cute Jam Band kid. Without any musical talent, Janie and Sarah decide to join Jam Band and along the way meet Monster (yeah, that's his real name ;) ) and very talented musician who makes Janie feel special.
Janie and Sarah, while working on a school project, find out that a local named Harlan Pritchard played a big role in a historical event. Then they go off on a sort of adventure, along with Sarah's older sister Emma (who is the wild child), to uncover the real stories and bring light to these heroes!
I really loved the characters is this story. Everyone added a different aspect to it and they were all fun to learn about. My favorite was Monster. He was mature, but fun and made Janie feel like she didn't just blend into the wall and go unoticed.
I loved the little adventures and self-discoveries Janie has throughout the book, but I just couldn't get past the dragging on of the first person point-of-view. I would have enjoyed more dialogue and feel that it could've added much more to the novel and broken up the monotonous vibe! Bottom line is that I feel it is a good, quick read, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The secondary characters, such as Monster, are wonderful and add so much to the story. Another thing that I like is that Janie's mom is present in her life, and portrayed as a "normal" if a bit clueless and a tad annoying at times mom.
I think its a good lesson how she realizes how other's opinions and thoughts are dictating her opinion and I liked how she accepted who she was.
This is a sweet contemporary, and I really enjoyed.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was quiet good. However in the beginning of the book I found myself waiting for the storyline to pick up and reach a conflict. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Mareena P
This was just an ok coming of age book. There was no real plot and what little story there was, was predictable. The characters, though likeable, were cliché.Published 16 months ago by SandyLynne
I recently purchased this book for my teenage sister who just started freshman year at a new high school! Read morePublished on May 1, 2014 by Rachel
It was amazing!!!!! I would read it again and again and again. Love this wonderful book. Very pleased with it.Published on January 8, 2014 by Caylie N Parr
I liked the book, but it was really slow and hind of boring. I liked the ending though. I would recommend this book.Published on November 11, 2013 by kelly marietta
Beautiful story about a teen girl trying to find her way. Frances O'Roark Dowell uses moments of hilarity and horror to illustrate how to navigate your way to truly being... Read morePublished on July 9, 2013 by FINE ARTIST
I wasn't impressed. I mean, I've read worse, but this book is pretty similar to a lot of others I've read: teen girl likes a boy, tries to fit in at school, doesn't, decides it's... Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by Clark Lewis
We forced to read this in reading class and it wasn't a good book once at all. I hated it. I would recommend not to buy this go spend your eight dollars somewhere elsePublished on March 19, 2013 by Woody