I always like to own the books I read. I may not intend to read them again, but I might. I have only recently stopped buying mysteries in some of the series I read because I know I will not read them again. But, what about this dilemma: Yesterday I went to the library to pick up a book I had on hold. Since the book is the first in a series and I am not sure I will like it, I decided to get it from the library instead of buying it. While I was there I browsed the YA section and picked up four other books. Three were on my "wishlist." (I maintain an on-line wishlist just to keep track of books I want to read. I do not necessarily intend to buy them.) However, I have read one already and really liked it and am wondering if I should now buy it, which seems ridiculous since I have already read it. I justify the purchase of many kid's and YA books with the rationale "Someday I will have a child who will have access to all these great books." But when I have a child who is old enough to read the books I am collecting, he/she may have different reading interests or there will be new books to read and he/she will not want to read mom's old books, or (gasp) he/she may not like to read. At that point I will have all these books which may not benefit from long life because they are too rooted in a specific time. Not every book can be Lord of the Rings. Just because I liked them at the time does not mean I will in 10 years or find them relevant then either. Sigh....so I love to own books. I like to arrange them and look at them and take them down and touch them, but should I really be buying so many....probably not.
So, the book I read that caused this existential crisis is Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell. It reminded me a bit of Lemonde Mouth because of the focus on joining a band to find one's way out of high school oblivion. In this book, Janie Gorman lives on a farm, which unfortunately brings her the kind of attention freshman females often try to avoid, like ridicule for smelling like goat poo, or hay in the hair. Because of this notoriety Janie spends lunch time in the library every day (not bad in itself, but she does not have friends to be with there either). She sees her best friend in only one class and her middle school group of friends is scattered by the "massivity" of high school. As Janie relaxes and beings talking to Verbena in the library and a boy named Monster invites her to join Jam Band she starts to find a place for herself in school.
Outside school Janie helps her father interview Mr. Pritchard, a local folk artists, who turns out to also have been a civil rights activist with his now deceased wife and Mrs. Septima Brown. The message in Janie's growing awareness of history and the importance of individual activism is not heavy handed or contrived, instead Dowell uses the specifics to show that stage of maturity when teens finally are able to look outside of themselves, a moment celebrated by parents and teachers the world over. The book is a lot more involved than this synopsis shows, with a blogging mom, 8 year old sibling, morphing relationships with friends, and a novel ending hootenanny, which is part of what makes Janie's life so interesting even though she may not see it herself.
There is nothing particularly new in this novel, but as a break from the heart-wrenching angst, dystopic downfall of society, and the supernatural it is nice to read the story of someone who is so not normal in all the best ways.