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Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
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Absolutely Normal Chaos (original 1990; edition 1997)

by Sharon Creech

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1,177196,846 (3.85)11
Member:JessicaABaker
Title:Absolutely Normal Chaos
Authors:Sharon Creech
Info:HarperCollins (1997), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 230 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech (1990)

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A prequel to the 1995 Newbery Medal winner Walk Two Moons. Absolutely Normal Chaos chronicles the daily life of 13-year-old Mary Lou Finney during her most chaotic and romantic summer ever.
  wichitafriendsschool | Mar 25, 2016 |
A good juvenile book; very entertaining. However, just getting back from beach camp with my church, I was bothered by all of the uses of the Lord's name out of context. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
Before summer vacation from school begins 13-year-old Mary Lou Finney's English teacher assigns the class the homework assignment of writing a daily journal. Mary Lou embraces the assignment and manages to fill 6 notebooks before the new school year begins because Mary Lou has a lot to say. She is the second child in a family of 5 children and there is always chaos at her house. The Finneys add another person to the mix when 17-year-old cousin Carl Ray joins them for the summer to find work. Carl Ray is quiet, messy and lazy but he holds a secret that Mary Lou will try to worm out of him before the summer is over. Added to all of this is Alex, Mary Lou's first honest to goodness boyfriend, the death of a neighbor, which brings Mary Lou face to face with mortality for the first time, and a boy crazy best friend who is driving Mary Lou crazy.

This was a fun little book and Mary Lou is a very likeable character. Younger girls would probably like this one a lot.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
If you've read Sharon Creech's 1995 Newbery Medalist, Walk Two Moons, you might recognize some characters from that one in Absolutely Normal Chaos, Creech's 1990 novel, which is built around the journal assignment that also appears in Walk Two Moons. The Finney family, as well as some of Phoebe and Sal's classmates from Walk Two Moons, made their first appearance in this book. Absolutely Normal Chaos did not seem to have much press until after Creech won the Newbery, which is why many seem to think it was written after Walk Two Moons. Nope. It came before.

Mary Lou Finney, the second of the five children, is the journal writer in this book. And what a journal it is! She writes "on and on" sometimes, just like her best friend Beth Ann talks "on and on" about her latest boyfriend. I would hope thirteen-year-old Mary Lou just got caught up in the journal writing and didn't really intend to turn all this in to her teachers.

Author Sharon Creech says the inspiration for the book came when she was living in England and missing her family. Just like Mary Lou, she actually has three younger brothers named Dennis, Doug, and Tom, but the book characters' behavior is fictional, just like those of her parents, older sister, and cousin (the latter two not named Maggie and Carl Ray in real life). Creech "did have a cousin who came to live with us when I was Mary Lou’s age, and he was quite like the character Carl Ray is," and "Mary Lou gives her address in this book as 4059 Buxton Road—and that was my real address," although it was in South Euclid, Ohio, and not the fictional Easton of the book.

While some of the plot isn't too plausible (especially Carl Ray's story), the portrayal of family life at the unnamed time is. I think there's a bit of timelessness in the setting of this novel that makes it appealing even today, 25 years after it was written, and nearly 60 years after the author was Mary Lou's age. For me, the only real clue it's not set in the present is the many references to telephones that are *not* cells (or smart) - the kids call each other and don't text.

The book addresses some serious issues - death (the next door neighbor, who is not elderly) and poverty (Mary Lou travels with Carl Ray back to his home in Appalachia - no electricity, no flushing toilet).

Besides the summer journal to keep, Mary Lou also has a summer reading list. She picks out a book of poems by Robert Frost and the Odyssey to read, and makes comments and writes notes about them in this book as well. Her commentary is quite amusing.

Probably the funniest part of the book for me was the stretch in the journal where Mary Lou's mother tells her to stop saying "God," "stupid," and "stuff" so much, and to expand her vocabulary. So Mary Lou uses a thesaurus to find synonyms and starts using those instead, even in her journal. The results are hilarious (from page 139):

"Not much elixir happened today. Alex had to work all day, so I stayed home, watched Tommy, read some more Odyssey, and quintessence."

"Mrs. Furtz came over again, all crying and nub, about some cabbageheaded letter she got....I do feel sorry for her and all, I really do, but Omnipotent!"

Actress Kate Forbes does a fine job narrating the audiobook - she makes a perfect Mary Lou for the first person diary entries.

Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library and my university library respectively. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
  riofriotex | Dec 8, 2015 |
Plus another bit of a star. Perfect for a sleepless night and a rainy day. Love all the different voices. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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For Karin and Rob Leuthy and all our Creeches
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Dear Mr. Birkway, Here it is: my summer journal.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0064406326, Paperback)

Dear Mr. Birkway,
Here it is: my summer journal.
As you can see,
I got a little carried away.
The problem is this, though.
I don't want you to read it.

Remember Mary Lou Finney from Walk Two Moons? Here's her complete, secret journal!

Mary Lou Finney is less than excited about her assignment to keep a journal over the summer. Boring! Then cousin Carl Ray comes to stay with her family, and what starts out as the dull dog days of summer quickly turns into the wildest roller-coaster ride of all time.

How was Mary Lou supposed to know what would happen with Carl Ray and the ring? Or with her boy-crazy best friend Beth Ann? Or with (sigh) the permanently pink Alex Cheevey? Suddenly a boring school project becomes a record of the most exciting, incredible, unbelievable summer of Mary Lou's life.

But what if her teacher actually does read her journal?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:18 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Thirteen-year-old Mary Lou grows up considerably during the summer while learning about romance, homesickness, death, and her cousin's search for his biological father.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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