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Define Normal: A Novel

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A thoughtful, wry story about two girls - a 'punk' and a 'priss' in peer counseling

About the Author

Julie Anne Peters is the award-winning and bestselling author of books for teenagers that reflect alternative family situations


Gr 7-10-When Antonia is assigned to Jazz as a peer counselor, she figures there is no way she can help this tattooed, pierced, incorrigible girl. They are complete opposites. Antonia is a straight-A student whose parents are divorced and she is struggling to keep what's left of her family together as her mother battles depression. Jazz's family is wealthy and seemingly perfect. As they continue through the 15 hours of peer counseling, it becomes clear that both girls have issues they need to work through. They go from wary classmates to friends who support and help one another. As Antonia's mother is hospitalized for her depression, Jazz battles her own mother's need to control by quitting the one thing she loves most-playing classical piano. Both girls deal with their losses by finding new ways to look at their problems and to resume life as "normally" as possible. This believable book is well written and readers will feel that they know both Jazz and Antonia, and they will want to see them triumph over the frustrations in their lives.-Kimberly A. Ault, Lewisburg Area High School, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

'The book's radiance comes from the lovable humanity of the nimbly nuanced characters' - KIRKUS REVIEWS 'This believable book is well written and readers will feel they know both Jazz and Antonia, and they will want to see them triumph over the frustrations in their lives' - SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL 'An enjoyable read that will also attract reluctant readers' - BOOKLIST

In this middle-school drama, two seeming opposites become friends and discover they are not such opposites after all. Peters (How Do You Spell G-E-E-K?) does little to update this well-trod theme, and while there are touching moments in her book, it's generally bland. Nerdy Antonia is assigned to peer-counsel Jazz, whom Antonia assumes is "hopeless. A punker. A druggie. A gang hanger." After a few agonizing sessions, Antonia begins to realize how much she needs someone to talk to. Her dad has split (as readers learn midway through), her mom's so depressed she can't get out of bed and Antonia's overwhelmed with responsibility and pain. Not only does Jazz literally intervene to get her family back on the road to recovery, but by offering her friendship, Antonia learns to depend on someone besides herself. In turn, she helps Jazz learn to talk to her parents and to compromise on arguments without compromising herself. They both learn that judging people by their outside appearance can be misleading. Occasionally, Peters captures a feeling perfectly, like Antonia's loneliness. "That's how I feel, I thought. Like a star...," she says, looking at the sky. "Distant. Detached. Blinking. On-off. On-off." Mostly, though, the exposition depends more on telling than showing. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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