Define ‘Normal’ by Julie Anne Peters

This story is about “two girls–a “punk” and a “priss”–who find themselves facing each other in a peer-counseling program and discover that they have some surprising things in common” (from the blurb).

Antonia is a straight-A student, who spends all her spare time taking care of her younger siblings, as her mother is fighting a losing battle with depression since her husband left. Although she is only 14 years old, Antonia’s responsibilities have made her grow up far too fast. She keeps to herself, has no real friends at school, and really has no one to talk to about her daily troubles. Because of her lack of spare time, she has been forced to drop the after-school clubs she so enjoys in deference to her family’s needs. At one point, she is approached by the school counselor to do ‘peer counseling’ for another student who is experiencing troubles at home as well. Much to Antonia’s dismay, her ‘client’ is Jasmine “Jazz” Luther, a punk with an inflammatory attitude.

The girls get off to a tremendously horrible start, and Antonia almost gives up several times before they can even find anything in common. Eventually they both begin opening up and becoming unlikely friends. This happens at the perfect time, as Antonia’s problems at home begin to escalate, culminating in her mother’s hospitalization. Antonia comes to depend on Jazz’s friendship, and they grow to become each other’s trusted confidant.

This was a quick read, and aside from some painfully jarring attempts at ‘young kids slang,’ I feel that the author did a good job describing the very different worlds that formed these characters. Antonia has many obstacles that I can’t imagine dealing with at the age of 14, but I know there are many out there that are painfully familiar with the theme. For their sake, I am glad this book exists to give them hope. Although the writing and subject matter isn’t as good as some of her other books (See Rage: A Love Story, those looking for a serious angst-ridden abusive emotion-fest), I did enjoy this book and will continue to recommend this author to young and old adults.

Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters

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