Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review - Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: Miles from Ordinary (Amazon)
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: 2011
Pages: 197
Genre: YA
Source: Library

Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother's ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control....
“No one can get inside the head and heart of a 13-year-old girl better than Carol Lynch Williams, and I mean no one," said James S. Jacobs, Professor of Children's Literature at Brigham Young University, of her breakout novel, The Chosen One. Now this award-winning YA author brings us an equally gripping story of a girl who loves her mother, but must face the truth of what life with that mother means for both of them.  (Goodreads)

Kim’s Take: This was such an unusual and heartbreaking story. Being a book with only 197 pages, it was easy to read in one sitting. Because it was so strange and I felt so bad for the main character, Lacey, I kept reading to find out what was going to happen in the one day that the book covers.

The day the book is based on is the first day of Lacey’s volunteering job at the library her aunt used to work at. It is also her mother’s first day as a cashier at a grocery store. It becomes obvious within the first few pages that Lacey’s mother is suffering some sort of paranoid schizophrenic illness. Lacey has been taking sole care of her mother since her aunt was forced to move away by Lacey’s mother. With her mother’s mental illness, Lacey has not had anything remotely resembling a normal life. She has no friends and is an outcast at school.

On the bus taking Lacey and her mother to their first day at their new jobs, a fellow classmate, Aaron, takes an interest in Lacey and seems to honestly want to become her friend. Lacey is hoping this day will be the start of better things to come for her and her mother.

The story is interspersed with flashbacks by Lacey to events in her history that help explain the depth of her mother’s illness and her relationship with her aunt. When the work day ends and Aaron shows up to ride the bus home with Lacey, I felt hopeful that she would begin to have something resembling a childhood. But that all changed when her mother is not waiting at the bus stop where she should be. She is missing and Lacey is in a race to find her, scared of what will happen if she doesn’t.

With the help of Aaron, Lacey’s comes across very disturbing things her mother has been doing that she was unaware of. This scares her even more and makes her realize that her mother has not become “better” after all. She is forced to call her aunt for help though she has bitter feeling towards her, feeling abandoned by her aunt when she left.

It didn’t end the way I thought it would but still made me hopeful for Lacey and her opportunity for a better life.

The only thing I had a hard time dealing with was the absolute certainty by Lacey that her mother was her responsibility and would do anything to appease her. Realistically, there had to have been others who knew what was going on and would have done something. Her mother had several public displays of paranoid schizophrenic behavior but nothing was ever done. And I was irritated by Lacey's non-stop attempts to protect her mother, though I could understand it. I’m sure some readers will feel differently. And her mother only becomes more unstable as the story progresses.

I thought it was a really good book and highlights some of the tendencies of a paranoid schizophrenic and their delusional ways of thinking. It makes you realize how hard it must be for caretakers and family members of people suffering from this illness. And how it would make it that much harder for a thirteen year old girl to take complete responsibility and be all alone with a mother who was so mentally ill and standing on the edge of no return. My hope was that she didn’t take Lacey with her.

A great, quick, recommended read!

Kim’s Rating: 4/5


  1. I loved her novel The Chosen One, so I am sure I would like this one too - she is a tremendous writer!


  2. this looks great, I'm adding it to my TBR list right now!

  3. I think I like the idea of shorter books, somehow.
    And this one sounds interesting, though kind of sad, though I'm glad you said it ends up hopeful (I can deal with sad-books so long as they have hope in them).

    anyway, thanks for the review :D I think I'm going to try give this one a try.

  4. Aww, this book is going to make me cry I know it. Loved the review!

  5. I've had this on my reading list for a while now, but our library still hasn't gotten it in yet. I'm curious to read it though, as I had an uncle that was schizophrenic. Wonderful review, Kim!

  6. Wow, I'd love to see how this book spanned the course of one day, with flashbacks interspersed throughout the story. Sounds really interesting! Great review!