Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publication: Atheneum (March 22, 2011)
Description: Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation--and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much.
It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment.
Frances O’Roark Dowell’s fierce humor and keen eye make her YA debut literary and wise. In the spirit of John Green and E. Lockhart, Dowell’s relatable, quirky characters and clever, fluid writing prove that growing up gets complicated…and normal is WAY overrated.
My Thoughts: This was a really sweet, realistic fiction story about a girl in her freshman year of high school. Janie feels like a social outcast because she lives on a hobby farm with a mother who blogs about their life. Also, there was that day that she went to school with goat poop on her shoe!
Janie is smart and articulate and typically fourteen. She wants to fit in by being just like everyone else and she is embarrassed about her home and her family. She does go with her dad when he visits Harlan Pritchard in the nursing home to hear about his life. Mr. Pritchard and his wife were big in the early days of the civil rights movement. Mr. Pritchard was a lawyer. His wife and a friend started a Freedom School to teach blacks how to read and write so that they could register to vote. The KKK burned a cross on their lawn and the Pritchards kept it there and planted flowers around it.
Janie and her best friend Sarah are in a Woman's Studies class and they decide the Mrs. Pritchard would make a great subject for their report. Sarah is the kind of friend who always has a cause that she is agitated about. She is also bossy and opinionated. Worst of all, she has a different lunch and only one class with Janey. Janie has gotten used to hanging out in the library rather than braving the terror that is the lunchroom.
She are Sarah are also crushing on Junior Jeremy Fitch. Jeremy encourages them to come to Jam Band. The girls agree even though neither of them plays a musical instrument. Enter Monster. He is Jeremy's friend and he has a bass that the girls can borrow. Sarah quickly decides it isn't her thing but Janie does learn to play and spends time with Monster, who is a really great guy. Gradually Janie begins to find a group of friends in her new school.
This was a very nice story. I recommend it to young adults who like realistic fiction. Janie unique viewpoint and clear commentary on her life provides a touch of humor too. It is fun watching Janie grow and get a whole new perspective on what normal really it.
We were sitting at the dinner table, eating a Stouffer's frozen lasagna that hadn't quite gotten heated all the way through ("Think of it as lasagna sorbet." my mother suggested, and I was so young and enthusiastic at the time that I actually tried to think of it that way), when I told my parents we should move to a farm and raise goats.