Life takes the closely knit Harrisong clan, first introduced in Deliver Us From Normal (2005), about as far from “normal” as it's possible to get in this wild sequel set three years later. Glum teenage narrator
Charles realizes a dream when he sells an article about his family's earlier experiences to a magazine.
However, the dream turns nightmarish when lawyers descend, first threatening to sue over his disparaging picture of the Bargain Bonanza chain store, then suddenly changing their tune and railroading the panicked Harrisongs into agreeing to front a new line of NormalWear and other shoddy products. Instant sensations, the junky goods propel the Harrisongs into international celebrity, whisking them from their rickety houseboat, the S.S. O'Migosh, to a penthouse condo and a whirl of limos and photo shoots. It all looks glamorous at first, but the Harrisongs soon discover a seamier side to contract slavery. Complicated by suddenly locked doors and trumped-up accusations of child abuse, they contrive a baroque, unlikely but satisfyingly successful escape. Readers will be pleased to see this simple, loving family weather the perils of almost comically exaggerated success to land on its feet. (Fiction. 11-13)
At the end of the first novel about Charles and his family (Deliver Us from Normal, rev. 7/05), the Harrisongs move to a decrepit houseboat; this sequel picks up two years later. Through an article Charles writes about their experience living on the boat, the Walmart-esque Bargain Bonanza chain blackmails the family into becoming their spokesfamily. The Harrisongs move into a penthouse supplied with all Bargain Bonanza items, from clothing to food, and are paid in Bargain Buckeroos. As the their fame increases, so does the stress on each family member, but for sensitive fourteen-year-old Charles the humiliation is especially exquisite, as he is the spokesman for Cowboy Chaz laxatives. In Charles's agonized yet very funny narration, Kline displays again both her grasp of family relationships and her sharp wit, particularly in creating the tension between the Harrisongs' life of luxury (with limo rides and drawers full of cash) and its underlying worthlessness (since they are living in servitude, and the cash has a picture of Cowboy Cal in the middle). The fast-moving plot is entertaining but may also prompt some serious discussion. S.D.L.
In this quirky sequel to Deliver Us From Normal (2005), precocious 14-year-old Charles Harrisong sells an article to a national magazine describing his working class family's flight from Normal, Illinois, to escape small-town prejudice and live an atypical life aboard a houseboat. The article comes under the scrutiny of superstore Bargain Bonanza, which threatens to sue because of Charles has maligned its clothing in print. The chain agrees to drop the issue if the Harrisongs will promote their new “Normal” brand of sportswear, power tools, and laxatives. Though they are given a rent-free Dallas penthouse and all the “Bonanza Bucks” they can spend, the Harrisongs are unhappy, and they quickly hatch a daring plan to escape the reality television show that has become their life. Riffing on commercialism and the cult of celebrity, Klise's narrative often feels contrived and over the top, but middle-school students who enjoyed the first novel will appreciate this sequel, with an offbeat humor reminiscent of Gordon Korman and David Lubar. Jennifer Hubert
In this sequel to Deliver Us from Normal (Scholastic, 2005), the Harrisongs continue their financial and domestic struggles. Charles, 14, writes an article about his family that gets published in a magazine through chance connections. He then gets sued by Bargain Bonanza, a discount conglomerate, for defamation. As a result of the legal ba