Ten Miles Past Normal
Frances O’Roark Dowell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Janie, a quirky vintage-clad ninth grader struggles to fit in at high school. She hides out in the library at lunch, talks only to her best friend, Sarah, and escapes home to the farm after school each day. After two months of trying to find a place to fit in at the high school, Janie meets Verbena, a new lunch friend in the library, and she meets up with Monster Monroe, a tall, red-headed sixteen- year-old guy who definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. Monster talks Janie and her best friend, Sarah, into joining jam band. Sarah decides jam band is not for her, but Janie begins to find a place to feel accepted. A slight crack begins to form in their steadfast friendship as a result of their growing pains.
“And all of a sudden, I felt larger. Not taller, not heavier, not physically bigger. Larger on the inside. Like suddenly—how do I say this?—I felt like life had possibilities I hadn’t been aware of five seconds before.”
With the assistance of Emma, Sarah’s older sister, Janie and Sarah begin work on a project that broadens the girls’ knowledge of civil rights and works in an excellent lesson on intergenerational relationships. All three girls learn some valuable lessons about the Freedom School, a literacy school where African Americans were taught to read and write in order to vote.
I really enjoyed the fresh, bouncy voice with which Dowell imbues her characters. The freshness is offset by the quirkiness, particularly in Janie and Monster. The story is a fun, light-hearted coming of age story that turns out well for everyone.
You Are My Only by Beth Kephart
Publication Date: Oct 25, 2011
Egmont USA/Laura Geringer Books
ARC Copy from Netgalley.com
“I have Baby’s sock in my purse. I have the smell of her in my heart.” For 14 years Emmy Rane has carried a small yellow sock, “the color of a chick” with her. Emmy was an insecure 19 year-old when she married Peter Rane, a domineering young man with a bullying nature. The marriage produced Emmy’s beloved Baby. Emmy’s life is forever changed the afternoon she puts Baby in her swing and runs back inside to get a blanket.
The chapters alternate between Emmy’s narrative of her life at 19 and a young girl named Sophie’s account of her life at 14. Sophie is a sheltered young girl who has never attended public school. She spends her days by herself studying the work her mother leaves for her while she goes off to work. Their life has been a continuous move from one place to another.
Sophie finally makes friends with a young boy, Joey, who lives next door with his elderly aunts, Cloris and Helen. The friendship between the four of them must be kept a secret from Sophie’s mother or they will have to move again. Sophie, at 14, begins to question the life they live and the need to move continually. As Sophie sets out to find answers to these questions, she uncovers secrets she could never have imagined.
Beth Kephart’s writing has a poetic quality that stirs deep emotions. “True, true, the sky is blue,” and she smelled like baby. There is not one single other thing that smells like baby, that cheeks against your cheek like the cheek of a baby.” In addition, her vivid language portrays a clear picture for the reader. “The train screams and pitches. It thunders—such an awful trembling that I do not know how the houses on the banks along the tracks don’t shatter up and crumble.”
The book was incredibly sad, but amazingly beautiful as well. The book touches your heart and you keep thinking about Emmy and Sophie long after you close the cover. Once again Beth Kephart has written a great story that has appeal for young adults and older adults too.