Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: Miles from Ordinary
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 197
Release date: March 15th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: won an ARC in a giveaway at Midnight Bloom - thanks, Liz!
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
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.... This award-winning YA author brings us a 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.

First sentence:
There are mice.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I had no idea what to expect from this novel. I hadn't even read the description before entering the giveaway I won this from - I just saw it was contemporary YA and entered. But I was pleasantly surprised!

This novel is heartbreaking. It reminded me a lot of A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler - both books deal with teenagers struggling to take care of their mentally ill mothers. The emotions A Blue So Dark conveys are great, but I think Miles from Ordinary is an even more heartbreaking read because Lacey's only thirteen. Seeing how Lacey gives up basically every aspect of her life to take care of her mother is heartbreaking - she's an incredibly strong character.

While Lacey never really tells the reader what her mother is suffering from (probably because she doesn't know what to call it herself - after all, she is only thirteen), it's downright scary. This isn't really a suspense novel, but it had me scared and thoroughly creeped out, especially at the end. The descriptions of the mother's condition are eerily real.

Lacey is a great character. I've never experienced anything close to what she's going through, but I could understand her nonetheless. I felt for her throughout the book. She makes it so easy to understand her conflict of wanting to take care of her mother and needing to protect her, but at the same time wanting to have a normal life. The one thing I didn't really get is why she didn't want to ask her aunt for help anymore - it seemed like they had such a good relationship, so I didn't really see the problem of calling her and asking her to help when things got really bad.

I'm not sure what to say about the secondary characters because, well, none of them are all that important. Most of them are just used to portray Lacey's problems and her mother. The only character I would have liked to know more about is Aaron. No, he's not that important, but I think some kind of quirk or problem of his own would have made him more realistic. The way it is, it seemed like Lacey was the only one who had any problems, and everyone else's life is just perfect.

I have to admit I was a little confused while reading this. The actual plot is only one (incredibly eventful) day, but there are lots of flashbacks and memories Lacey goes back to. For me, it was very confusing to keep up and know whether we're in the present or past.

I love the ending. It's always hard for me to decide what I want from the ending of a book - I don't want it to be too happy and unrealistic, but I don't want it to be sad and depressing either, and Carol Lynch Williams found the perfect middle. I think I've said this in another review, but this is something like a hopeful ending, which are the endings I like best.

What I don't quite get is the title, Miles from Ordinary. The title made me think this book was going to be about being different and accepting who you are, which doesn't really fit to this novel. No, Lacey's life isn't ordinary, but I still would have preferred a different title, something that better fits to Lacey's situation.

Don't be discouraged by the fact that the protagonist is only thirteen - even though Lacey's voice is a realistic portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl, this book seems more like YA than MG. Miles from Ordinary is not an easy read - it's utterly heartbreaking - but it's definitely worth it! I really recommend it, especially if you liked Holly Schindler's A Blue So Dark!


  1. Great review! I'm glad how you touched on the MG vs YA issue, there's been a bit of debate on Goodreads for how to categorize it. When I wrote my review back in May I called it MG because I assumed anything with a young protagonist was, but after reading a few more reviews I agree that the content is a bit heavy for a younger reader.

    Here's my review:

  2. This book really looks good. I would love to read it. Thanks for the great review!!


  3. I can't believe i haven't read this book until now and it's on my to-read list! Thank you for the great review and for recommending it too. I'm really looking forward to reading it before the year ends. (:


  4. I hadn't even heard of this book, but now you make me want to read it. Thanks for the review.

    the imagine tree at aol dot com

  5. I've read Carol's work before and loved it. I'm hoping this is the same. Sounds like it :)


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