Janie Gorman strives to be a normal high school freshman, but the fact that she lives on a goat farm doesn’t help her much in her quest for “normal.” She hops on the school bus smelling of goat poop (thanks to her morning chore of milking the goats), and she eats lunch in the library, because none of her friends have the same lunch period as her. To make matters worse, Janie’s mom insists on writing an extremely embarrassing blog about “farm life.” None of these trials are made any easier by Janie’s knowledge that she was the one who recommended the move to the farm in the first place!
In a realistic and funny voice, Janie manages to make fun of herself and her peculiar situation in a way that provokes genuine empathy. She experiences her first real crush on a boy and feels the pain of trying to hang onto an old and cherished friendship in the face of quite a few challenges. She learns that making new friends can be just as wonderful as hanging onto the old, and she deals with the loss of someone important to her, learning a lot about herself in the process. She does all of this with humor and a great deal of self-awareness. Although she wants to be “normal,” she begins to embrace what it is that makes her different, and that is refreshing and fun to read.
Although Frances O’Roark Dowell is a best-selling and highly acclaimed author of novels for young readers, Ten Miles Past Normal is her first novel for teens. She lives up to her acclaim in this unusual coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old girl who is far from normal, but very endearing.