|TEN MILES PAST NORMAL|
Frances O'Roark Dowell
It's been a while since I've read a book I've just flat out liked as much as this one. It's easy to slip into Janie's crazy, goat-milking life, and despite her protests that she just wants to be normal it's clear that "normal" is one thing Janie will never be. And that's a good thing. While her best friend Sarah is on a tirade against cocoa (yeah), Janie finds herself doing things she never imagined. Joining the Jam Band, for instance, making friends with a boy named Monster, and discovering the bravery of those in her town.
This book has great characters, not least of whom is Sarah's older, wilder sister, Emma. I want to be best friends with Emma. Scratch that, I want to be Emma. She's freakin' awesome. So is Monster. So is Janie, and her mom, and her sister, and her dad, and her new friend Verbena. This book is full of the kind of characters that are both awesome and realistic, and a lot of this is due to the amazing dialogue. From the very start the dialogue in this book captured me -- way before I knew how awesome the rest of it is. Dialogue is one of those things I often overlook in my reviews, in favor of discussing the plot or characters or setting, but when it's really great, dialogue definitely makes an impact.
Despite the fact that Janie lives on a farm, the setting is not the strongest part of this book. It's not weak by any means, but the amazing characters and Janie's journey from surly to powerful takes over anything else the book has to offer. Despite the offbeatness of it, Janie's personal journey is one we can all relate to and it's a book I'd feel more than comfortable recommending to just about anybody. Authentic, sweet, and with a surprisingly powerful heart.