Sarah's Stars

Leslie Connor. Waiting for Normal
HarperCollins  $18.99  ISBN 978-0-06-089088-9  290 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

"Why do you want to go up to Dwight's so bad anyway? What's so special? What are you chasing after?" she asked. I stood thinking about that just a little too long. Mommers slammed the door again and I heard her turn on the shower.

"I'm not chasing after anything," I mumbled to myself. "I'm waiting. Waiting for normal."

Sixth-grader Addie used to be as close to normal as they could get. Her father died when she was a baby but that brought Dwight into the picture, her stepfather that she adores, as well as two younger half-sisters. But then Mommers filed for divorce and although Dwight tried to gain custody of Addie, he didn't succeed. Now Addie is stuck living in a yellow trailer underneath what she calls the Over-Underpass. As Addie struggles to live alone with her negligent mother she makes new friends with the employees at the mini mart across the street: Soula, the overweight woman with more heart in one fingernail than most people have altogether, and Elliot, the quirky man who works the register. All sorts of unexpected surprises fill up Addie's life, like a hamster named Piccolo, a fiancée for Dwight and a new boyfriend for Mommers (one that Addie never actually meets). But through all of life's twists and turns Addie remains resilient on simply keeping happy and waiting. Waiting for normal.

Leslie Connor's Waiting for Normal is filled with a well-rounded cast of lovable characters. They are all a little bit bizarre and a little bit unique but they are all real and wonderful. The only true villain in the story is Addie's mom and the author does a good job of painting her as an antagonist who is mean and abusive but unlike a traditional bad guy character, she also has some good in her, too. Addie herself is an optimistic little nymph with a charming view of the way the world works. Instead of getting angry or feeling jealous when Dwight tells her he's getting remarried, Addie is actually genuinely pleased. And when Mommers leaves for more than a few days, instead of moping around or running for help, Addie figures out ways to survive on her own. The resulting adventures are as heartwarming as they are heartbreaking. Waiting for Normal is a beautiful novel of a girl who is simply waiting for stability and love in her life. And I truly believe that the speculation about being a contender for a Newberry award is well deserved.

I give Leslie Connor's Waiting for Normal four and one-half stars.

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