Maybe Mommers and I shouldn't
have been surprised; Dwight had
told us it was a trailer even before
we packed our bags.
Waiting for Normal
by Leslie Connor
I honestly thought Leslie Connor's book Waiting for Normal would be a light-hearted comedy, so I picked up a set of five for my classroom book clubs. My reading taste leans towards the dark and brooding; left to my own devices it can make for a pretty heavy reading list for my 7th graders to choose from. So I make an effort to look for funny books. It's not exactly easy. Young adult literature is currently going through a very dystopian phase.
But I was hoping for something like I Capture the Castle and ended up with something like The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. Except the girls in Gamma Rays have a better mother than Addie, the heroine of Waiting for Normal, does.
In the book Addie and her mother, Mommers, move into their new home, a trailer located almost underneath a railroad bridge next to the river in a shady section of town when the novel opens. Mommers has just divorced her third husband Dwight who is not Addie's father though he is the father of two other, much younger girls, who are Addie's half sisters. Addie's little sisters are going to live with Dwight. Dwight wants Addie to come live with him, too, but Mommers and the law prevent that from happening. So Addie is stuck on her own with a mother who has a habit of staying away from home for days, sometimes weeks at a time. She is, in effect, raising herself.
This is not funny.
Even when Addie meets Soula and Elliot the colorful characters who run the gas station/mini-mart across the street. Elliot, part owner of the mini-mart, is in the middle of a romance with his new boyfriend Rick; Soula lives in a glass house behind the mini-mart, is larger than life, and in the midst of chemo-therapy for the cancer that is slowly killing her. The two are devoted to each other and soon become devoted to Addie who spends time with them whenever she's not in school since her mother is usually either away or on the internet trying to start a mail-order business that results in more and more unsold merchandise piling up around the trailer.
If you changed a few plot elements a little, this could have been kind of funny.
When Addie gets a pet hamster, I really started to worry. Remember what happened to the pet rabbit in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds? When Addie goes to visit Dwight and her sisters leaving the hamster in her mother's care, I really began to worry. No, need, though. The hamster lives.
My students enjoyed the book. They ranked it four out of five Amazon.com stars and didn't mind that it was much more serious than I led them to believe.
But they do agree with me about the cover.