Monday, October 5, 2015

Define "Normal"

Source: Author Website
Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2000, 196pp.)

Hoping to spice up her college application with some extracurricular activities, Antonia volunteers to peer counsel one of her troubled classmates. Unfortunately, the school sees fit to pair her with Jazz, a scary, tattooed goth girl who looks like she eats kindergartners for breakfast. It seems the two girls couldn’t be more incompatible—yet, they actually have more in common than either of them realize. For example, both have trouble at home, though in differing degrees. While Jazz struggles to maintain her “goth” identity against her parents’ wishes, Antonia struggles to care for her severely depressed mother, as well as parent her two preschool-aged brothers. As the story unfolds around these two well-developed protagonists, the author addresses the elusive definition of “normal,” and encourages her teen readers to think twice before dismissing a peer based on physical appearance. There was no “objectionable” material like swearing or violence, though there is a very intense scene where Antonia’s mother is institutionalized for her depression, and her children are sent to live with a foster family until she “gets better.” At 196 pages, it's a quick read that will appeal to younger teens (ages 13-15) interested in realistic/urban fiction, and those seeking solace for troubled home situations.

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