Thursday, September 11, 2008

Waiting for Normal

Connor, Leslie. 2008. Waiting for normal. New York: Harper Collins.

“Truth was I never really liked dinnertime. Breakfast was our best meal because it was the only meal that was normal. What I mean by that is we had either toast or cereal. That’s normal for breakfast – everyone eats those things for breakfast. But we often had cereal or toast for dinner, too. … So, toast dinners became my specialty.”

Addie and Mommers live in a dilapidated trailer, sitting on cinder blocks on a busy street corner in Schenectady. The corner, not in Schenectady’s best part of town, has a vacant lot, a Laundromat, and thankfully, a mini mart and gas station. The trailer is a parting gesture from Addie’s ex-stepfather. After Mommers fritters away the mortgage money on another Internet scheme and abandons Addie and her half-sisters while Dwight is out of town on a job, Dwight really has no other choice but to take his daughters (whom Addie affectionately calls, The Littles) and move on. But despite his love for her, Addie is not his daughter. Addie belongs to Mommers, and Mommers is what Addie describes as "all or nothing." The problem is, Addie often gets nothing, while business schemes, boyfriends, and Internet chat rooms, get all.

In spite of all this, Addie displays remarkable courage, self-sufficiency, adaptability, honesty and humor. She becomes friends with Soula, the sickly and overweight owner of the mini mart and and her employee, Elliot. She makes new friends at her new school. She waits for normal.

This first person account of a young girl's triumph over adversity is reminiscent of Susan Patron's Newbery winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, however, Connor's protagonist is more hopeful, more believable. Even the dismal Schenectady street corner trailer seems to offer more promise than Lucky's trailer in a remote California desert town.

Both a coming-of-age and a triumph over adversity story, Waiting for Normal is a winner.

Rumor has Waiting for Normal as a possible Newbery contender. If chosen, it will be the second choice in as many years of a young adult (YA) or teen title. As a children's librarian, I hope that juvenile (J) title is chosen instead. There are many good choices this year.

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