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Ten Miles Past Normal, Frances O’Roark Dowell

2011/09/11

Fourteen year old Janie Gorman used to love living on the “farm.” In fact, after a field trip to a farm in which fresh goat cheese was the highlight, a precocious nine-year-old Janie decided that having chickens and goats and living on a farm would be a great life, and her enthusiasm for the idea spread to her parents, tapping into their long-forgotten dreams of living sustainably and escaping the city lifestyle. That’s how Janie finds herself living in an 1800’s era farmhouse and waking up way too early each morning to milk the goats and feed the chickens, which wreaks havoc on her entry into high school, not to mention her family life and foibles being aired on her mother’s farm blog. Janie and her best friend Sarah are determined to be successful in high school, following in the steps of Sarah’s popular, wild, yet still straight-A sister, Emma. But two months into the school year, Janie is eating lunch in the school library (all right, on the way to the library), and hoping desperately that her mother hasn’t mentioned anything about her in the latest blog. But after a school assembly, Sarah decides that she and Janie should join the high school Jam Band, and that’s how they meet Jeremy and Monster.

If you were to put semi-realistic teen girl fiction on a scale with Caletti at the top and Dessen at the middle, this one is probably going to hover somewhere in the bottom half. Although it is easy to read and has a fairly likable character, there isn’t really much in the way of substance. Yes, Janie experiences ostracism from the other girls because of her odd family life, and yes, she and her best friend go through periods where they can’t stand each other, and yes, they have boy problems and parental problems. But otherwise, there isn’t much to the story despite Dowell’s attempt to infuse it with some historical significance by having Janie’s father be involved in living history projects.

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