Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal

Janie loved the idea of moving to a farm when she was 10, but in high school it’s not so cool. Goat manure on her shoe, hay stuck in her hair that awful first week of school – now the kids call her “Farm Girl” and treat her like she’s invisible. Except Sarah, the only friend from their junior high who came to this high school; they only have one class together… so it’s lunchtime in the library, every day, alone.

When a cute guy invites them to play and sing with Jam Band, Janie is amazed to find that she’s a natural on bass guitar. Monster (that’s really his name on his birth certificate – crazy parents) teaches her to play, and she just feels the energy grow.

Researching their women’s studies project introduces them to real heroines in their North Carolina town, women who taught black adults to read and write so they could register to vote in the 1950s, despite threats from the KKK. As Janie and Sarah interview Mrs. Brown and the late Mrs. Pritchard’s husband, they decide that the old farmhouse site of the “Citizenship School” should be preserved as a museum.

Will Jam Band ever make real music? Does Monster like Janie (you know, “like” like)? Can she survive her craft-clueless mom’s blog about farm life that veers a little too often into Janie’s personal life? And Mom’s plan for a hootenanny at the farm for her 15th birthday? Yikes!

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA
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Fresh, offbeat, and funny, Ten Miles Past Normal will have readers and librarians enthralled. This book may be picked by savvy state library associations as the best of 2011.

Janie Gorman doesn't want to be known as the Goat Girl, but it's hard to shake that name when she sometimes smells of goat poop and other rich farm smells. Living on a small goat farm with her pseudo-hippy parents and "getting back to nature" blogger mother, and making natural goat cheese sounded like fun when Janie was nine; now that she's in high school, being awakened at dawn by an industrious rooster and feeding goats before school is not as much fun as she had once thought it would be.

Janie has yet to find her high school niche; she longs for a place to fit in. When she is offered bass guitar lessons by a boy named Monster, she gives it a try. The funny thing is, Janie was born to play the bass! Now, she's one of the "cool" Jam Band kids.

The Goat Girl is now the Jam Band bass girl. Ten Miles Past Normal is a fun read and a real page turner. It's nice to see that normal girls living normal lives can be an interesting read for teens--girls don't have to have super-powers or paranormal boyfriends to be entertaining.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No language, no sex.

Recommended by Pamela Thompson, MLIS, Library Media Specialist

visit her ya novels blog at http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
*now a featured blog on the Texas Library Association's homepage at http://www.txla.org/TLA-blog
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Be careful what you wish for when you are nine. It might come true and ruin your life when you get to high school. Janie Gorman knows this truth. Her nine year old self wished for a farm. Now she lives with her family on a “farm-ette, mini-farm”, which brings her continuous shame. Remnants of her farm life are always traveling with her to school: straw in her hair, goat poop on her shoe. Even more mortifying is that her mom, a freelance journalist, documents the family’s farm trials on her blog. 9th grade has brought a change in Janie's relationship with her mother, who loved high school. Janie feels overwhelmed, insignificant, and ostracized in her enormous high school. As a result she shares less and less with her mom about school. “I thought it was possible I might actually punch my mother if she said one more positive word to me about the wonders of freshman year.” Instead of confiding in her mom, Janie now talks more to her goats Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Janie struggles, like many brand new ninth graders, with fitting into a new gigantic high school. She eats lunch in the library because none of her middle school friends eat during her lunch period. Her best friend has virtually no classes with her. All Janie wants is to be normal, to fit in, and avoid drawing shameful attention. The farm makes it impossible.

Like a basket full of baby chicks in the sunshine, Ten Miles Past Normal will warm your heart. Janie struggles in ways many struggle as they transition from 8th to 9th grade. She desperately wants to stop standing out and being embarrassed because she is different than everyone else. She feels simultaneously awash in a sea of judgmental comments and invisible in the cafeteria. Her 8th grade friends have different schedules, lunches, interests than she does. Boys, well, boys are a continuous source of frustration for her. One of Janie’s projects for school will involve an oral history project and a local civil rights activist. Throughout, Janie remains grounded, insightful, and courageous, continuing to make good choices. Students interested in farming and sustainable food practices and the impact on regular people may be especially interested in this book. But Janie’s struggle to accept herself, as her world stretches and remakes itself between 8th and 9th grade, will find welcome, broad audience. At 209 pages with short chapters, readers of many skill levels will breeze through. This book will find greatest audience with students 13-15. Younger readers may enjoy the story as a preview of high school with no worries about anything excessive.

Recommended by: Alison Cucchetti, Teacher-Librarian, Ohio

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