Sunday, March 2, 2014

Define "Normal"

Title: Define “Normal”
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Number of Pages: 196
Date Read: 3/2/14
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Synopsis (Found on

This thoughtful, wry 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.

My Review:

This was a good book. 

It deals with two girls who are the complete opposite of each other, counseling each other through their problems. Both girls have family troubles and issues. In school they are paired up in a peer counseling program. Antonia is the counselor who is told to that she needs to help Jazz. At first there is friction between the two girls but over their sessions they become friends and open with each other about their problems. The main messages for this book is "Don't judge a book by its cover" and "things are not always what they seem".

Antonia is a 14 year old "Priss". She gets good grades, is good at math and on the outside is the perfect student and girl. She works very hard to get good grades so she can graduate early and is very smart. Her home life however is horrible. Her mother is clinically depressed and Antonia has to take care of the house and her two little brothers, Michael and Chuckie. Her mother doesn't get out of bed and doesn't take care of her children. Its all on Antonia, plus dealing with school. Antonia tries to hide her home situation but when things get out of control, Jazz is the one to help her. Antonia is very defensive and closes her feelings off. It is very hard for Jazz to get her to talk but she does eventually. Antonia was an ok character but she seemed cold and it was hard for me to get to like her. Of course I understood that her home life made her that way but to me, she wasn't so likable.

Jazz is a punk with piercings, tattoos and purple hair. She has a big attitude and to me is hilarious. She is also very smart but teachers judge her based on her looks and think she's a slacker. She was my favorite character and automatically likable from the moment we meet her. Her problem is that she clashes with her parents. Her parents are rich and she lives in a mansion. Her parents don't approve of the way she dresses and want her to be prim and proper. She has an especially horrible relationship with her mother. They fight all the time. Jazz is more fun loving than Antonia and has a secret passion that Antonia discovers, which also causes friction with her mother but not in the way you think. Jazz is more open with her feelings and is easier to talk to than Antonia. While Antonia gives up easily and is unwilling to try very hard, Jazz is the opposite, trying to get Antonia to open up. 

This book deals with many issues that teens can face in high school. One is the clique thing and judging other people based on how they look. When Antonia first sees Jazz in the counseling room, she forms her opinion on her because of her looks: that Jazz is a punk, a druggie, an alcoholic, has been arrested many times and is a gang banger. Jazz thinks that Antonia is a priss. Over the course of the book they find that despite their outer appearances they have many things in common, they support one another and become great friends. Antonia makes a lot of head way in this aspect because we can see when she speaks to her teacher about Jazz and the hinting at a romance that may happen between Antonia and Jazz's friend who is also a punk. I feel like Jazz is more open about people and their appearance. 

The books also deals with depression, neglect and counseling. Teens reading this book who are in similar situations can see that things can get better and that they should not keep secrets like these. Its ok to ask for help and they can't do everything on their own. The book shows what can happen when someone is depressed and that these people need help, sometimes medicinal, and that there is no shame in that. It also shows that counseling and even just talking to someone about their problems can help immensely. If there is a problem, they shouldn't keep it bottled up inside. 

This book deals with all these issues and shows that good things can happen from bad situations. I would recommend this book for teens to read. 


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