Monday, December 30, 2013

Ten Miles Past Normal

Ten Miles Past Normal
Frances O'Roark Dowell
(Image from its goodreads page)

The summary is going to be from the Amazon page. Sorry, I just couldn't figure this one out.

Janie Gorman is smart and creative and a little bit funky…but what she really wants to be is normal. Because living on an isolated farm with her modern-hippy parents is decidedly not normal, no matter how delicious the goat cheese. High school gives Janie the chance to prove to her suburban peers that she’s just like them, but before long she realizes normal is completely overrated, and pretty dull.
If she’s going to learn how to live large (and forget the haters), Janie will have to give up the quest and make room in her life for things from the fringe—like jam band, righteous chocolate, small acts of great bravery, and a boy named Monster.
Woo hoo. Thank you, Amazon, for providing me a way to be lazy. And while we're here, a shout out to my computer, for reminding me that I have no excuse not to write a review. A thank you to you both.
Okay, onto the actual part.
I loved Janie's character and voice. She was a really easy to relate to (someone tell me why "relatable" isn't a word, it would make my job SO much easier), regardless of whether or not you live on a Mini-Farm. She has a tendency to rail about her past self (who was very young and enthusiastic) and parents, but not as much complaining as a reviewer in a bad mood. As we should respect reviewers in bad moods, the amount of venting was also worthy of respect. It was just at the point of "Oh, yeah, I totally understand, literary character who cannot hear me speaking". I'm making this sound odd, but I'm sure you'd like it, reader who cannot hear me speaking.

But, as always, I must point something out that only vaguely has to do with the book. While I don't blame the author, Janie's character is the kind of character I see all the time in YA books with female protagonists. Tom-boyish, sarcastic, brown hair.

Ignore that last part.

Or don't.

Either way, I'm getting kind of tired of the generic "Sassy and Independent Barbie! (Boyfriend Included!)". It's like the be a "good character", the MC has to be masculine or, at best, gender-neutral. Anything that could even be considered feminine (the color pink, dresses/skirts, purses, make-up) is automatically shunned, deemed something for "cake-faced idiots that only know how flirt". Seriously? Can you not? Somewhere out there, someone is agreeing with me. I'm sure.

Ah, a lovely tangent we had there. Okay. Let me continue.

The supporting/secondary characters were well-written, too. Ms. Dowell either did a lot of developing outside of the story for them (the book wasn't particularly long, so most characters only had a day in the limelight), or had a great method of covering up that fact that she has no idea about these people at all.

Sarah, out of all the non-main characters, was my favorite. She had a kind of popular-girl dynamic, but without the automatic hatred you are supposed to gain upon hearing her name. In fact, I didn't feel a grand hatred of her at all. She was 100% unloathable. A wreath of flowers and a maple doughnut bar to you, author lady.
The plot itself was hard to follow, assuming there was an actual A to B plot at all. For the most part, it was a bunch of events strung together to make a story. It's... I'm noticing that a lot now. I mean, Wintergirls, Out of the Easy... What does this mean? Why are there so many "snippets of life" stories? Do they deserve a name yet? 

We'll assume that it's on of those, which I shall now call a SOL book. In which a case, this was a very good one. It even tricked me into thinking there was a plot, the sneaky little thing. However, if there was some kind SOLless plot I'm missing, it didn't do too great.
The emotions, I am so very glad, were realistic. It was easy to get lost in the going-ons of Janie's life. 
Sadly, I must now pick out the one thing that irritated me.  If I didn't, this would be "senseless praise", not a review.

The plot points, while I loved (almost) all of them, didn't get much attention of their own. They only really got short moments in the sun, and were kind of episodic. Personally, I think that either they all should have had a little more time spent on them, or some of them should have been dropped. There were just way too many things going on for any individual part to really get interesting. 

And the main one I must prey on was the romance. Oh, don't you gasp, you saw it coming from a thousand miles away. 

While the Love Interest (Monster) was interesting as a character and friend, that's what he did best as. An interesting character and an awesome friend. The romantic aspect was just taking time away from the other parts.

Trust me, the "other parts" I keep referring to vaguely, are pretty cool. Civil rights, hootenannies (Oh, so hootenanny is a word, but relatable isn't. Come on.), a vendetta against chocolate, crime-fighting goats? Well, not the last part, but you get my point.

Overall, pretty good book, would recommend it, thank you and good night.


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