Define “Normal”

"Kelcie" by Frank Kovalchek  Flikr IMG_1330a

“Kelcie” by Frank Kovalchek
Flikr IMG_1330a

Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters is a story about looks being deceiving.  It centers around a young middle schooler, Antonia, who is selected by the guidance office to provide peer counseling to troubled fellow student, Jasmine “Jazz” Luther.  Antonia is immediately put off by the girls looks — piercings, black lipstick, tattoos — and assumes she’s unintelligent, sub-human, and trouble.  As the story unfolds, we learn that it is Antonia — a model straight A student, who is struggling with a home life that’s falling apart: her dad has deserted the family and her mother is increasingly dysfunctional.  Antonia, left to pick up the slack for her two young brothers, tries to hide the facts from neighbors and school officials and refuses to ask for help.  Despite their differences, the girls begin to trust one another.  Antonia discovers that Jazz lives in a mansion and is a gifted classical pianist.  Jazz, on the other hand, takes part in supporting Antonia when she and her brothers are sent to live in a foster home.  The author, Peters, weaves a masterful portrayal of Antonia’s mother’s descent into crippling depression.  Although the book is a bit dated, it is a fast and enjoyable read.  Peters, who has made her mark in the young adult fiction scene with stories about struggles faced by gay/lesbian teens, made the characters in this story, however, a bit too stereotypical.  The “good girl” Antonia is too naive and often talks like a middle-aged woman, whereas the “bad girl” Jazz trots out all the clichéd bagged of a teen rebelling against her parents.  I also question the age of the girls, who are supposed to be 8th grade middle schoolers.  The fact that Jazz sports tattoos and such without parental permission is questionable, and some of their activities seem more appropriate to high school.  Overall, a good story that kept this reader engaged.

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

2 responses to “Define “Normal”

  1. I really enjoyed this book. There isn’t many books like it around and Julie Anne Peters is a fantastic storyteller.

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