Rummanah Aasi
  The transition from middle school to high school can definitely be challenging. Within one summer, the friendships that you have had for several years in elementary and middle school suddenly change when new interests and people are involved. Frances O'Roark Dowell's latest book titled Ten Miles Past Normal tackles the several changes of starting high school and centers on a heroine who is trying to find her own niche. I received an advanced reader's copy of this title by Simon and Schuster. Ten Miles Past Normal will be released tomorrow.

Description: Janie Gorman pitched an idea of living on a farm to her parents when she was in elementary school and her parents declined at the time. Now that she is in high school, her parents revisited the idea of living on a farm and decided to go for it, which doesn't help Janie's cool quotient at school at all. Known for hay being in her hair and manure on her shoes, all Janie wants is to just blend in and be normal. 

Review: Ten Miles Past Normal is a delightful book that tweens in particular will enjoy because it centers around the mystique and realities of high school, which is something in their near future. Janie's plight of finding her own niche in high school, looking for friends to eat lunch with, and the ever-confusing potential relationships with cute boys are universal in coming of age stories. The story is told from Janie's freshman year experiences. She has a sure, smart, sarcastic, and self deprecating voice that will appeal to many readers. Unlike many teenage protagonists, Janie knows she won't be in the popular crowd and doesn't strive for the impossible, but she yearns for companionship with people who are like-minded like her so she can eat comfortably at the cafeteria instead of scarfing down her lunch at her locker and taking refuge in the library.   
  High school becomes tolerable when Janie and Sarah, her best friend, try to get closer to cute Jam Band boy, Jeremy Fitch, and they get involved with their upcoming school history project. Dowell gets all the details of the frustrations that many high school freshman face right. There is only a touch of romance, but if anyone who is looking for a strong romance element will be disappointed in the book. I did like many of the secondary characters in the book such as fellow band mate Monster and Sarah's older sister, Emma, however, I felt they were a bit undeveloped and didn't have a strong impact on the story as Dowell wanted them to do. The subplot involving Janie's history project held my interest, but I felt it didn't have a smooth transition to the main arc of the story and at times felt to overshadow the book's main purpose, which is Janie's attempt to find her place in high school.
 Overall, Ten Miles Past Normal is an enjoyable and quick read. Though it is marketed to teens, I think there is more tween appeal to this book and will probably circulate more amongst middle schoolers, which is not a bad thing at all. 

Rating: 3.5

Words of Caution: None. Recommended to Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern or Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I really like the sound of this one:) Is there anything worse than that feeling of walking into a crowded cafeteria in high school and having no idea where to sit? Well, obviously there's a lot worse, but in high school terms, that's a pretty awful feeling! Lovely review Rummanah:)

  2. Aleeza Says:

    great review! i really enjoyed this book too--and i think tweens as well as teens can enjoy it. it's so cute!<3

  3. I loved this book. It felt so real. Perfectly capturing the early high school personality. I agree that it's better for tweens. I think this is the author's first YA novel - she's written MG before.

  4. Jenny: It's a cute book and I like Janie's voice.

    Aleeza: Glad you enjoyed it too!

    Alison: I just felt like there was something lacking in this book. It just seems too wholesome to be YA, but maybe that's because I'm use to reading jaded realistic YA fiction lately.

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