Monday, May 16, 2011

Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: Miles From Ordinary
Author: Carol Lynch Williams

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Date Read: May 2 - 6, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars 

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. 

I was excited to read Miles From Ordinary because it was so short and had such a frighteningly beautiful cover. If I had read the back, however, I would've seen that this is technically a middle-grade novel. Oh well!

I absolutely loved how climactic each chapter was. By the end it was pretty redundant and I knew something tragic would happen, but the predictability didn't take away from the overall gloom-and-doom of previous chapters. Most authors would lose suspense by including flashbacks but Carol Lynch Williams seamlessly incorporated them into dialogue and internal monologues. By adding typical "horror-film" elements like never-opened rooms, blood, dead animals, etc. the novel easily became one of the scariest I've read in quite a while.

Mental illness is an incredibly scary thing for a 13-year-old to witness and live with, a concept Williams excellently portrayed through Lacey. While I didn't really connect to her as a character I appreciated how her own mentality was degraded and shaped by her mother's constant paranoia. Few YA novels show how mental illness can negatively impact a family's mental and social health as well as Miles From Ordinary did. I loved how the the typical "ghost" horror element was also a metaphor for haunting memories and an unwillingness to forgive and forget the past.

I was really disappointed with the ending of the novel. I found it really cheesy and predictable compared to the previous elements. I would've liked a few more chapters to wrap up the day and give a sense of closure for Lacey's character. I also think Williams should have considered writing the novel with the final chapters being the prologue, playing the day in reverse, or perhaps a reflection of how Lacey's life turned out in the next few years and how she struggled to put herself back together.

Favourite Quote: "It was almost like Aunt Linda was a part of the books. Made of pages or something. Bits of words. And she had made me a part too, by reading to me."

Recommended: Breathe My Name (R.A. Nelson), Choker (Elizabeth Woods), Bliss (Lauren Myracle)

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