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Thursday, March 24, 2011

ARC Review: 10 Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Rourke Dowell

After reading Where I Belong, I dived into 10 Miles Past Normal, which is also about a city girl adjusting to life somewhere else, specifically a farm, and all the ups and downs that comes along the female lead's life, a teenager named Janie.

10 Miles Past Normal, however, is a more hilarious and charming chronicle of farm life as seen through the eyes of a fourteen year old, Janie.

Title: 10 Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Rourke Dowell
Pages: 289
Release Date: March 22nd 2011
Published by: Atheneum
Source: Publisher (thanks Simon & Schuster UK!)
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository


Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation—and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much.

It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment.
Janie's a teen with very interesting, funny thoughts for a fourteen year old. I enjoyed listening to her fun yet quirky voice throughout the novel. Her musings in life felt like my own, and most of the time it made me laugh.

I'm a mixed breed, as I would tell my friends. I lived in the city for the most part of my life but I've had a fair amount of years spent in the countryside as well. There's a big difference between living on both places, but I did enjoy spending those precious years living there, so I connected with Janie instantly, having almost the same background as her.

I was beginning to think of Manneville as a boring town, seeing it through Janie's eyes. What I realized almost halfway through the book was that it's not the town who does not have an appeal, what Janie was doing is what makes the town boring for her. Seeing Manneville through the eyes of Mrs. Brown and Mr. Pritbaugh made Manneville seem like a great place to live in. The story behind Manneville during those years where Martin Luther King was alive, the Freedom School, made me wish I was there. Like Janie, it made me want to do something so I can feel bigger, larger than what I am now, to make a difference.

Janie's interesting observations about everything, her opinions about a lot of things is just hilarious. It never gets boring! She was different, and sometimes being different do not go well with people, but her struggles in school and in life reminds us just of what we go through when we were young, struggling to find our own places in life.

Sometimes being normal is overrated. Janie was struggling to make her life as "normal" as possible, but really, what is normal and what is not? Janie had her bestfriend Sarah, lobbying for ethical chocolate, Sarah's older sister, Emma, who they worship and they thought was beyond cool because she does things people don't ordinarily do, Verdena who loves to scribble tattoos on herself using a Sharpie, and a guy named "Monster", who was big and plays bass and probably knows the entire school population. Does any of them scream normal? No, I don't think so.

It's Janie and her friends' unique personalities and circumstances in life that makes this novel such a joy to read. In her quest to be normal, Janie had inadvertently learned a piece of the town's history that will make her appreciate being the "farm girl", that despite milking the goats every day and helping her blogger mom put together a ruined shirt she was actually trying to alter, she can still be the cute chick who plays bass, who loves hanging out with an 80 year old man and talk about life, and enjoy high school with friends and finally having her own clique to eat with at the cafeteria.

I love how Frances O' Rourke was able to blend all of these topics, all these stories and all these characters into one heartwarming and sweet novel. A bit sporadic, yet Frances was able to tie all parts of the story into a neat and light-hearted story. Ten Miles Past Normal is a fluffy and touching read that just leaves a smile on your face when you finished reading it.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My rating

Content (plot, story flow, character):

Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!

Book Cover:

The cover perfectly captures Janie, the cute bass playing farm girl!


  1. Yay! I am so happy that you enjoyed this as much as I did! ;) Great review!

  2. I have this Galley and need to get round to reading it!

  3. Aww this sounds like such a nice read! I love the unique mix of characters, I'm already intrigued by them already. I love those light-hearted books that still manage to teach us a lesson and leave a smile on our face afterward. Definitely checking this out!


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