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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Normal: It's All Relative

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Addison Schmeeter knows what normal is. Or maybe she doesn't, but at least she knows what it's not. It's not a mom leaving her kids for nights on end without letting them know where she is or when she'll be home. It's not a mom refusing to get out of bed for a week. It's not a 12-year-old doing all the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. It's not a parent acting like a child. The way Addie and Mommers live - nothing about it is normal. Addie knows their situation's unconventional (to say the least); she also knows she can't tell anyone about it, not if she wants to avoid ending up in foster care. Besides, Mommers needs her. Addie can't abandon her mother, no matter how crazy Mommers acts sometimes.

So, Addie hides the truth about her mother's violent mood swings - from her teachers at school, from her grandfather, and from her new friends across the street. Only Addie's ex-stepfather knows how bad Mommers gets sometimes, but no matter how hard he tries, he can't really help Addie. She knows he'd take her to live with him and her little half-sisters if Mommers would let him, but she won't. No way. She hates Dwight. And since he's not Addie's biological father, he can't legally force the issue. So Addie waits. And waits. For normal to make an appearance in her increasingly wonky life.

At least, Addie's in a new neighborhood, attending a new school. No one in this part of Schenectady knows her or Mommers. It's easier to hide. Until things get complicated. Suddenly, along with daily survival in an always-unpredictable home, Addie's got to deal with a friend's devastating secret, Dwight's new romance, and the intense stage fright that grabs hold of her every time she thinks about her upcoming violin solo. She'll have to face it all, while, at the same time, trying to predict what her mother will do next, where she will (or will not) show up, and how she's going to keep Mommer's erratic behavior a secret from prying eyes.

Although not as hard-hitting as other novels about children dealing with a parent's mental illness, Waiting for Normal is nonetheless affecting. The 2009 Schneider Family Book Award Winner by Leslie Connor takes a poignant look at one girl's brave fight for normality despite living with a mother whose manic-depression makes her life anything but. While I didn't love the book, I do think it's a well-written story about an important issue.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams, You Are My Only by Beth Kephart, and Small As An Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, and A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: I waffled between PG and PG-13, but finally settled on the latter because of mild langauge, intense situations, candid discussions of female issues associated with puberty and references to homosexuality.

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Waiting for Normal from the generous folks at Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of Harper Collins). Thank you!


  1. Bummer you didn't love it, it's one of my favorites (probably because it has a lighter tone than most similar books).

  2. I have this in my classroom and the kids that have picked it up didn't love it... I also have a version with a different cover (not as eye-catching) so it often gets passed over during independent reading


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