Book Review: Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Remember the hare-brained schemes you came up with as a kid? Especially any that involved getting a pony? Remember how you wished people grown-ups your parents would take you seriously? Janie Gorman does. In fact, she can’t forget, no matter how much she wishes she could.

Ten Miles Past NormalTen Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like all fourteen-year-olds, I used to be a nine-year-old. In retrospect, I was an annoyingly perky and enthusiastic nine-year-old. In fact, I’ve been enthusiastic my entire life, up until this fall, when high school sucked every last ounce of enthusiasm right out of me.

After a fourth-grade field trip to a farm, Janie Gorman came home and suggested to her parents that they move out of their suburban house an onto a farm of their own. Five years later, she’s still surprised they really did it. Now, her days start with a crowing rooster, goats that need to be milked, and the knowledge that everything her family does is fodder for her mother’s thrice-weekly blog. She only gets to see her best friend (and former neighbor) in one class a day; none of her middle-school friends even share her lunch period. All she wants is to be normal, have friends, maybe date a boy. But how can she blend in when everyone knows her as Farm Girl?

In her debut YA novel, accomplished middle-grade fiction author Dowell creates an utterly realistic teenage girl caught in an out-of-the-ordinary situation. Janie is frustrated with her life, and she relates her story with sarcastic humor. Short chapters, each with an amusing title, keep the pace brisk and breezy. There are quite a few threads weaving their way around each other: Janie’s feelings about farm life, her desire to both fit in and be noticed, and her shifting relationships with friends and family are all explored. Recommend this one to fans of light realistic fiction like Naylor’s Alice series.

View all my reviews