Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Define "Normal"

Little, Brown and Company published the young adult novel Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters in 2000.  The American Librarians Association declared Define "Normal" as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults the next year in 2001.  With such a high recommendation from librarians, who dedicate their careers to books, I thought I should read this novel.

The two main charcters, Jasmine (Jazz) and Antonia are eighth graders who attend Oberon Middle School.  That's about all they have in common or so I thought.  Antonia dresses conservatively in skirts and sweaters, the traditional "school-girl" manner, while Jazz enjoys black for just about everything including eyeshadow and lipstick, and she is no stranger to piercings or tatoos.  Antonia works hard, does what she is told, and gets good grades.  On the other hand, Jazz does not fear and, of course, questions authority mercilessly.  She has a bad reputation and hangs out with the wrong people.

Dr. DiLeo, a couselor at the school, invites Antonia to sign up as a "peer couselor" as an honorable thing to do, to help people who are less fortunate.  Not surprisingly, she is paired with Jazz and the drama begins.  Antonia now dreads the weekly hour long meetings.

The first few meetings go badly with Antonia walking out more than once.  Neither one of them is open minded about the other and they both make broad assumptions.  Antonia tries to quit a couple of times, but Dr. DiLeo will not let her claiming that sessions generally go badly at first.

We find out more about Antonia's and Jazz's personal lives as the book continues.  Things are not as they seem.  Both seem to have problems at home and hidden talents yet to discover.  I won't go into much more detail, so anyone can read this book without knowing too much.  The ending is satisfying.  This is a great read for a middle-schooler.

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