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Far From Normal by Kate Klise
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Far From Normal (2006)

by Kate Klise

Series: Normal (2)

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Reviewed by Mechele R. Dillard for TeensReadToo.com

Fourteen-year-old Charles Harrisong cannot understand why God hates him, but he knows that He does: "How could You abandon me and my family like this. Never mind. Don't answer that. I already know. It's because You hate me. Amen" (p. 217). All of the praying and begging and promising he has done over the years has gotten him nowhere. Rather, it has gotten him everywhere he doesn't want to be: far from normal. "My family," he muses. "We were turning into a vaudeville act" (p. 234).

Klise's story is confusing at times, and the motivation for the family to run from their previous home in Normal, Illinois, and live on a houseboat--the rickety S. S. O'Migosh--just doesn't make sense, even with the knowledge that there is an earlier book, DELIVER US FROM NORMAL, dedicated to the explanation of the situation. The family had been labeled "poor white trash," so they snuck out of town in the middle of the night, like criminals, and headed for Alabama and a life on the water? Mmmmmm, okay, I guess.

Leaving the original story behind, the depiction of the Harrisongs as they unwillingly and unknowingly become prisoners of megastore Bargain Bonanza is an interesting metaphor for society today. Yes, it's true, we are all caught in the net of one "superstore" or another, whether we wish to be or not, and, yes, the little man has become completely helpless in the shadow of the wealth and power driving humanity today. We are all captives of the "superstore," and there is little we can do to free ourselves at this point, as most of us don't even realize we are prisoners.

My concern with FAR FROM NORMAL, ultimately, is not the improbability of some of the situations or the confusing twists and timelines, but that the underlying message may be missed by the audience, especially younger readers. Few teens are reading Hegel, after all, and the use of his words to inspire Charles seems odd to me: Is this scenario a case of "right against right" (p. 118)?

Still, Klise's words have the potential to make a reader puzzle, think, consider, question, search, and discover, and, as these are goals of good young adult literature, I believe FAR FROM NORMAL to be a positive addition to any reading list. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
While the plot was, overall, a very interesting one full of great plot twists, in the end, I prefer Kate Klise's humorous books for children much more than her realistic novels. Don't get me wrong, her realistic novels go right down to the core of realism when it comes to human emotions (Charles' prayers to God, saying He doesn't exist? It's something teens deal with but isn't written about all that often), even though some of the situations are crazily goofy. I did feel as though the last few pages made it out to be a big love story between Charles and Sophie, which really wasn't the root of the story at all. The writing was lovely though, the characters were all very three dimensional and interesting, and everything was great--just lacking that extra bit of awesome found in her children's books. I did, however, enjoy this book much more than I enjoyed its predecessor, Deliver Us From Normal.

Rating: 4.5 ( )
  Runa | Jan 19, 2009 |
Booklist (October 15, 2006 (Vol. 103, No. 4))
In this quirky sequel to Deliver Us from Normal (2005), precocious 14-year-old Charles Harrisong sells an article to a national magazine, describing his working-class family's flight from Normal, Illinois, to escape small-town prejudice and live an atypical life aboard a houseboat. The article comes under the scrutiny of superstore Bargain Bonanza, which threatens to sue because Charles has maligned its clothing in print. The chain agrees to drop the issue if the Harrisongs will promote its new 'Normal'brand of sportswear, power tools, and laxatives. Though they are given a rent-free Dallas penthouse and all the 'Bonanza Bucks'they can spend, the Harrisongs are unhappy, and they quickly hatch a daring plan to escape the reality television show that has become their life. Riffing on commercialism and the cult of celebrity, Klise's narrative often feels contrived and over the top, but middle-school students who enjoyed the first novel will appreciate this sequel, whose offbeat humor is reminiscent of Gordon Korman and David Lubar.

When we last left Charles Harrisong and his family, they were drifting in a houseboat off the coast of Alabama. But their direction shifts abruptly when Charles's book about their decision to leave Normal, IL, gets made into a major motion picture, catapulting the Harrisongs to instant fame. And when the superstore Bargain Bonanza debuts a clothing line based on the family called Normalwear, Charles and his family's lives go from their not-so-normal houseboat to a penthouse apartment and their own reality TV show.
Amazon.com ( )
  lnommay | Dec 28, 2008 |
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Epigraph
Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
--Soren Kierkegaard
Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.
--Bruce Springsteen
Dedication
For my brother, James
First words
The sheriff delivered the subpoena on my fourteenth birthday.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
If I had never admitted to Mr. Goodman that I liked to read philosphy and then told him that I wanted to be a writer some day, my family and I would not have ended up being famous. And let me tell you, being famous is not all it's cracked up to be. My family and I lived a simple life on a houseboat, the S.S. O'Migosh, until we decided to stay put for awhile so my younger siblings could go back to a regular school instead of being taught by our mom. When Mr. Goodman encouraged me to write about our family's experiences, I never would have thought it could have lead to so much trouble. When I happened to mention that I had gone on a dreaded shopping trip with my mother to Bargain Bonanza, their lawyers sued my parents because my comment caused a drop in sales. We ended up moving to Dallas and became the spokesfamily for the mega-chain store, Bargain Bananza. Since we came from Normal, Illinois, and we were seen as just a normal family, Bargain Bonanza created clothing and other products inspired by my family. They even created a reality show based on my family, along with a movie. Are we rich? Only if wealth can be measured in Bonanza Bucks. As my family gets used to improving the image of Bargain Bonanza, our life is far from normal!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0439794471, Hardcover)

A boy and his family find out whether fame and fortune are all they're cracked up to be in this sequel to DELIVER US FROM NORMAL.

When we last left Charles Harrisong and his family, they were drifting in a houseboat off the coast of Alabama. But their direction shifts abruptly when Charles's book about their decision to leave Normal, IL, gets made into a major motion picture, catapulting the Harrisongs to instant fame. And when the superstore Bargain Bonanza debuts a clothing line based on the family called Normalwear, Charles and his family's lives go from their not-so-normal houseboat to a penthouse apartment and their own reality TV show.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When Charles Harrisong's book about his family's life in Normal, Illinois, is made into a major motion picture, the family is catapulted to instant fame.

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