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Miles from Ordinary

Miles from Ordinary

3.7 7
by Carol Lynch Williams

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"Imagine Anna Quindlen or Sue Miller turning her attention to writing a young adult novel, and you have an idea what [Williams] has done for early teen readers…" --Audrey Couloumbis, author of the Newbery Honor Book Getting Close to Baby

Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at


"Imagine Anna Quindlen or Sue Miller turning her attention to writing a young adult novel, and you have an idea what [Williams] has done for early teen readers…" --Audrey Couloumbis, author of the Newbery Honor Book Getting Close to Baby

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It was always Aunt Linda who saved the day whenever Lacey's mentally ill mother had a bad spell. Now that Linda's moved away, it's up to Lacey to keep things on an even keel and find a way to save the family from financial ruin. The 13-year-old narrator gains hope when her mother takes a job as a grocery cashier, but her mother's first day of work at Winn-Dixie becomes a nightmare after Lacey discovers her mother has walked away from her job. In a novel spanning a mere 24 hours, Williams (The Chosen One) takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride as she traces Lacey's memories of childhood traumas, her desperate attempt to locate her mother, and the depths of her mother's sickness. Poignant moments expressing the heroine's yearning for an ordinary life are never far from images of unleashed violence, family feuds, and paranoia. The unfolding of details of Lacey's home life and her anxieties create a suffocating atmosphere; the climax (which brings to mind Norman Bates and Baby Jane) may be too disturbing for some. This is tautly written psychological horror. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

“Absorbing....[Williams] has crafted both a riveting, unusual suspense tale and an absolutely convincing character in Lacey. The book truly is miles from ordinary, in the very best way. Outstanding.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In a novel spanning a mere 24 hours, Williams takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride....Poignant.” —Publishers Weekly

“Gripping....Provocatively dark and at times downright scary, this novel will have readers rushing to the unforeseen, achingly authentic conclusion.” —Booklist

“A powerful and heartbreaking novel of love and hope.” —Meg Cabot, New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diaries and Airhead, on The Chosen One

“Fiction can offer emotional truth where other tools fail.... Williams unveils life among the Chosen with spare, evocative writing and an honest sense of character that helps bridge the rift between Kyra's world and ours.... The cinematic drama of her life...is a means to reach a quieter truth, revealing that moment in childhood when you recognize your thoughts as your own and discover forces in the world that your parents cannot--or will not--protect you from.” —The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice) on The Chosen One

“Intensely gripping and grippingly intense.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Chosen One

“Extraordinary....The Chosen One is brave, its plumb is true, it's a masterpiece.” —Kathi Appelt, author of the National Book Award finalist The Underneath, on The Chosen One

“Makes the heart race, the teeth grind, and the brow bead up in sweat.” —Gregory Maguire, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked and A Lion Among Men, on The Chosen One

VOYA - Suanne B. Roush
Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes one summer morning full of hope—hope that her mother's new job at the local grocery will go well, and hope that her new volunteer job at the public library will bring both satisfaction and, perhaps, a friend. Lacey knows that hope is not logical since her mother is mentally ill and haunted by the spirit of her dead father, and because she has been labeled a freak who is preoccupied by having to be the adult in the household after her mother kicked out her aunt Linda. On the bus on her way to the library, a classmate, Aaron, begins talking to Lacey and says that he will meet her at the end of her work day to ride the bus back with her. She accepts but does not expect him to be there. Aaron is waiting for her and is a great help and support when she discovers that her mother quit her job and has now disappeared. So much happens in this novel that it is difficult to believe it is only one day, with short flashbacks. The emotional impact is so intense that the reader inhabits Lacey's roller-coaster life and hopes at the end that she and her mother can survive and find peace. This is not the type of novel that will fly off the shelf, but with proper word of mouth, it will find a steady stream of readers. Reviewer: Suanne B. Roush
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—This is a heart-wrenching exploration of Lacey's attempts to build a normal life for herself under the shadow of her mentally unstable mother. As the novel begins, the 13-year-old desperately hopes that Angela's new job as a cashier at Winn Dixie will offer her a fresh start. It will also free Lacey to volunteer at the local library, allowing her to escape the woman's suffocating neediness. Written in a taut, lyrical style, the story takes place in one day; Williams effectively uses this framework to build the character of responsible, yet vulnerable Lacey and fill in the family's gripping back story. Her beloved Aunt Linda moved out of the house after a final blow-up with Angela, and her repeated attempts to rescue the girl have been thwarted. Further tension is added in the specter of Lacey's dead grandfather, whose strange pull on her mother looms throughout the story. Shunned by her peers, Lacey is essentially alone, so when Aaron, a classmate, reaches out to her, she is at first wary. But when events begin to spiral out of control, and her mother goes missing, it is Aaron who supports and helps her. The girl's conflicting emotions about her mother are convincing, though her continual internal ruminations bog down the pace of the novel. Nevertheless, the story gradually gains momentum, climaxing in a horrifying scenario in which she must use all her emotional strength to defy her mother's insane plan. Lacey is both a resilient and sympathetic heroine, and the ending is not without hope. However, the novel's overall bleakness will limit its audience to those who enjoy their plots on the dark side.—Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
Kirkus Reviews

This absorbing portrait of a 13-year-old girl and her struggle to cope with her mentally ill mother transports readers to hope, fear and horror. Lacey just wants to be ordinary. She wants to have a friend and to work at the library, but her apparently psychotic mother dominates her life. The girl must take care of Momma, instead of the other way around. When her mother disappears, Lacey confronts not only her own fears but also her mother's desperate illness. Momma constantly talks to Lacey's dead "Granddaddy," who tells her to do bizarre things. Granddaddy's latest request, however, might get both of them killed. Far more frightening than a ghost story, the novel achieves complete realism as Williams shows readers events through the eyes of a young girl whom the child-protection system has failed. Nevertheless, Lacey has so much spunk that readers are sure she'll survive. The author has crafted both a riveting, unusual suspense tale and an absolutely convincing character in Lacey. The book truly is miles from ordinary, in the very best way. Outstanding. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
HL410L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Miles from Ordinary

A Novel
By Carol Lynch Williams

St. Martin's Griffin

Copyright © 2011 Carol Lynch Williams
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312555122


There are mice.
Lots of mice. Running all over my room. Letting out crying sounds that grate on my ears. They crawl on my feet. My legs. I feel them on my arms. Soft things with toenails like blunt needles.
“Momma?” I say. She’s dressed in a long nightgown. Her fingernails are sharp like the tops of just-opened cans. “We gotta get rid of the mice. We gotta call an exterminator.” I hand her an old-fashioned phone.
“You’re right, Lacey,” Momma says. But instead, she cuts at her face with her nails. Deep wounds open up, split wide, and blood, dark blood like ink, makes paths down her face to the floor. She cries.
“Stop that,” I say. “Stop it now.”
But Momma doesn’t listen. Just cuts and cries.
*   *   *
I AWOKE with a start, my heart thudding in my neck. My whole body felt like I’d been dunked in an ice bath.
“Only a dream,” I said to myself, then glanced at the clock: 3:46 A.M. I started to close my eyes. The wind nudged at the house. I could smell the magnolia tree.
Something moved in the corner.
“Hello?” I said, clutching my sheet to my chest. “Someone here?”
There was no answer.
The floor creaked near the closet.
“Hello?” I wanted to sit up in bed, but I couldn’t quite move.
“Granddaddy?” My voice came out small. It felt like all the hair on my head was trying to get away from me.
Fear flashed a white streak behind my eyes. I gave a jump. “Granddaddy?”
Momma! It was Momma! Crying out a second time from her room. Her voice sad and scared and weepy. So the crying part of my dream was real. And maybe there was a mouse near the closet. A mouse coming from my dreams, alive and real? That was ridiculous. Of course that couldn’t be.
“Are you okay?” I called to Momma. I kept my eyes toward the closet. Straining to see. Just darkness. No movement now.
The night breeze pushed into my room. The smell of the ocean. So peaceful. No more sounds from the closet. Good. Good. I took in a breath to push my fear away.
“Granddaddy,” I said, hoping he wasn’t close enough to hear me, “this is my room.” A girl should at least have privacy in her bedroom. My heartbeat slowed.
“Lacey? I need you.”
Man, was I tired. My eyes burned. But I threw my feet over the side of the bed. As soon as I touched the cool wood of the floor, fear surged in behind me. Run! I hurried toward my mother’s room. It was like something chased me down the hall though I knew … Did I?… nothing was there.
A few more steps Go, go! and I made it. “What is it, Momma?” I leaned against the doorjamb. Her nightlight showed the pattern of flowers on the carpet.
“I’m scared.” Her voice was shaky. Did she have a nightmare, too? “Granddaddy keeps bothering me. Has he been coming into your room? I’ve told him not to. To let you sleep because of tomorrow.” Momma’s voice wasn’t even as loud as a whisper. I had to walk to the side of her bed to hear. I could see her slender form under the blankets. “And I told him I have to sleep too, because of you-know-what.”
I nodded but Momma didn’t look my way. Just gripped the sheet and blanket in her fingers and spoke like maybe I was glued to the ceiling.
“But he won’t let me alone,” Momma said. She glanced in my direction, then back again. “If you get in bed with me, Lacey, I think he’ll stay outta here for a while.”
Had he been to my room? For a moment I felt something behind me. Like someone watched. The feeling was muddy, heavy. Almost on my shoulder. Almost pushing me toward Momma. I refused to look back. Not that I could have seen much of anything. The darkness was fat, almost difficult, in the hall.
“Will you sleep here?”
“All right, Momma.” Forcing myself not to hurry, Quick, move it!, I took my time. Granddaddy might be the boss of this house, but I wasn’t going to let him know he scared me, too. I climbed in next to my mother and snuggled close. “Turn on your side and I’ll scrooch up to your back.”
“Okay, Lacey. Okay.”
Momma was so thin I could feel her ribs. Could have counted them. I could smell her sweat, too. “You go on to sleep,” I said. “If Granddaddy comes back in, I’ll send him out.”
Don’t let him come in here. And then, You know he won’t. And another, He could.
“Thank you, baby,” Momma said. “You watch for him awhile. But wake me if he tries anything.”
I yawned big. “I will.” Here I was, all of fourteen years old, and I was crawling into bed with my momma.
You big scaredy cat, I thought. Don’t let him come in here. You know he won’t. He can’t. Not possible.
With Momma so near, my fears faded some. My heart slowed. And at last I was asleep.

Copyright © 2011 by Carol Lynch Williams


Excerpted from Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams Copyright © 2011 by Carol Lynch Williams. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Carol Lynch Williams is the author of young adult novels including The Chosen One, which was named one of 2010 ALA's "Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers" and "Best Books for Young Adult Readers." It also won the Whitney and the Association of Mormon Letters awards for the best young adult fiction of the year, as well as numerous other honors. Williams was the winner of the 2009 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. She grew up in Florida and now lives in Utah.

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Miles from Ordinary 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
wordforteens More than 1 year ago
Carol Lynch Williams has that rare talent of being able to punch out an emotional roller coaster of a story in a small amount of pages. I absolutely loved Miles from Ordinary. It took me a few chapters to figure out everything that was going on and Lacey's relationship with each of the characters, but that was the point; it was supposed to be confusing. Even once you had a grip on the actual relationships, you felt like Lacey felt - constantly losing your grip on reality, always afraid of falling down the spiral staircase of insanity. I'm a character driven person; the fact that I could easily feel for Lacey without having to work for it made me love this story. I never had to worry about being bored while reading it because the emotional roller coaster that Lacey was on had me intense. The only thing that really irritated me throughout the entire story was part of the ending where Aaron, the boy who Lacey meets at the beginning of the story, does something while he's helping Lacey with something. (This is an intentionally vague sentence to keep it spoiler free.) I don't think it was necessary; he had done enough to further the relationship in one day that it wasn't necessary for it to be in the story. There was potential for the relationship at the end of their story without having that happen. Oh, and did I mention that the entire story takes place over the course of the day? Carol Lynch Williams is one hell of a talented author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
StalkinTheBooks More than 1 year ago
Miles from Ordinary is an extremely powerful and heart-breaking novel of one young girls struggle to care for her ailing mother and the impact that's had on her life. Lacey is a shy, brave and mentally strong young girl who's basically slowly falling apart. The weight of the responsibility she's been carrying has made her wary of new people or asking others for help. She believes she must care for her mother all on her own or risk losing everything. I felt so sympathetic for Lacey since she's had to grow up very quickly and constantly lives in a state of fear. At the same time though, I was equally frustrated that Lacey didn't always allow others to help her. I realize she's young and trying to protect her mother but as a mother myself, it just broke my heart. The story moves very quickly and the entire novel takes place during the course of one day. Much of it is told through Lacey's memories of the past, which are triggered by the different places she goes or things she sees. At times I admit to being a bit confused on whether or not we were in the past or present, but I'm also very glad the novel is told this way, since it help deepen Lacey character and explain how her life ended up the way it did. The character of Aaron was one of the main reasons I think I ended up liking the book as much as I did. He never once judges Lacey's situation, even if he doesn't completely understand it and continues to help her when she desperately needs someone to believe in. He also allows Lacey to see what her life is like from an outsiders point-of-view. Several times I thought perhaps I wouldn't finish the book. Not because it was poorly written or had unlikeable characters, but because of its realistic portrayal of how mental illness effects a person and their family. Some of the scenes between Lacey and her mother are so hard to read that I not only became extremely angry and heart-broken but also quite nausea. A novel so moving its to the point of desperation, Miles from Ordinary is certainly not a story for everyone but its definitely an important one nevertheless. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary fiction with an emphasis on mental, social and family issues as it tackles all three subjects very honestly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tawni More than 1 year ago
Carol Lynch Williams is definitely standing out by entering the reality of what its like to live and take care of someone who is mentally ill. I thought Miles From Ordinary was such a deep story that turned out quite surprising actually. I loved that I was expecting one thing and I was taken on another path. I feel that the unique twists and turns in the story signify how hard it really is to be Lacey, a 13-year-old girl taking care of her sick mother. Lacey is strong on the outside and made it look like a breeze to take care of someone who is supposed to be taking care of her. But the further into her thoughts you go, the more you understand the pain and hardship she's going through. Lacey and her mom, Angela, just picked up new jobs in town and Lacey hopes her mom won't freak out and she might have a chance at meeting friends and having a normal summer. Unfortunately, things don't happen the way she hopes and Lacey has to frantically search for her mom before something awful happens. At times it was hard for me to get a grip on what was happening and I think its because it was written using a southern style (or so I imagined). It was also hard for me to keep track of what was present and past, because it breaks into past times a lot! I honestly didn't know what to expect from this author, but she really put it out there. Miles From Ordinary was raw and very emotional. I agree that Williams knows how to get into the heart of a girl who's struggling with her mom alongside her own problems and feelings. Review based on ARC copy
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
Miles From Ordinary, by Carol Lynch Williams I could not put this young adult novel down, after reading the first few pages. The subject matter is definitely riveting. The tension is palpable as the story moves toward its climax. This author has done a masterful job of getting inside the head of a child who is filled with a sense of responsibility, loyalty and duty, to a very mentally ill mother, and also inside the head of the mother, as well. The guilt the child feels about her inability to help her parent is so powerful that you can feel it yourself and sympathize with her. It might be a book that adults should read as well, for it might help them understand the obstacles facing the mentally ill and their caregivers. I am not sure what age range is appropriate for this novel. Although the main character is just 13, the concepts raised, as her memories are explored, may be for a much older young adult; perhaps it would be better for someone at least 15-16 or older so that the subject matter can be absorbed without negative impact. This is one scary book. If it is made into a movie, it could qualify for a showing on Halloween! Mental illness, with all of its ramifications, needs to be understood so that compassion is the end result, not horror or vengeance or the ridiculing of those afflicted. At 13, Lacey is charged with a task beyond her years, of caring for her emotionally disturbed mother, with the spirit of her grandfather haunting them in the background, disturbing her mother's thoughts and ability to live a normal life. She has lost touch with reality. Her sense of responsibility is so strong that she fails to see that she is incapable of handling her mother and keeping her safe. Her aunt, who had kept the household in a semblance of normal, has been thrown out by her mother and forbidden to return by a restraining order. Suddenly, Lacey's life takes a new hopeful turn. She has obtained a volunteer job in the library where her Aunt used to work and she has filled out an application for her mom to work in the local market. Her mom has passed the interview and they are both beginning work on the same day. This is Lacey's summer vacation and she is hoping her life will change for the better. On the bus, riding to her job, one of her neighbors, a boy named Aaron, befriends her. She lets down her guard and is hopeful that her life will now blossom into something new and exciting, bright and happy, rather than the dark and gloomy way she lives within her home, where her mom keeps windows closed and shutters tight so as not to let in anything dangerous. Yet, the day ends in a waking nightmare for her. This book takes the readers to places they have probably not been before; it takes them inside the head of the disturbed person and the person charged with her care; the reader suffers with them and also feels their fear. For a little book, under 200 pages, it packs a punch.
MissysReadsAndReviews More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect from this story. Having no prior reading experience of Carol Lynch Williams, I was intrigued with praises of her writing but still clueless. After reading Miles from Ordinary, I can say that I will be singing her praises as well. Whatever I may have been thinking this book was, it was not. The story is beautifully written and so moving. It was also set in only one day's time, which was amazing to me. You'd think something like that wouldn't be able to live up to such high expectations in such a short timeline, but it far exceeds that with flashbacks of Lacey's past helping to guide you and help you understand. Did I mention it's nothing like I thought it would be? Lacey's story goes from heart-wrenching to haunting in the span of the book. Despite everything, you can't help but feel sorry for her and wish that she could have a typical carefree, happy childhood like all the other kids her age. Nevertheless, she's a strong character with an equally strong voice. I was hesitant at first with the main character being younger, but Williams did an incredible job with her voice. Lacey's aunt was a character I also thought was completely selfish, but when the flashbacks reveal more of the story, we see more of why each of the characters are the way they are. I'm not saying I completely agree with every character's actions, though the flashbacks help to understand them better than what I had originally thought. At the very beginning, I struggled a little to get into the story. I think maybe it was the accent of the character and the way she talked? I'm not sure. But my attention was caught very soon after and it wasn't long before I was finishing the book with white knuckles and a sore heart. This book is eerie, to say the least. It's contemporary - and a fine one at that - but I'd also put it in the psychological thriller category as well. If you like either of those, I'm positive you'll love this book.