cover image Define ""Normal""

Define ""Normal""

Julie Anne Peters. Little, Brown Young Readers, $16.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-316-70631-5

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.)