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

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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 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, with Miles from Ordinary, 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.

Miles from Ordinary was recently named to The American Libray Associations 2012 list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. The Chosen One was named one of 2012's Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults by the ALA.

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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.)
The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice) 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 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.
Meg Cabot
A powerful and heartbreaking novel of love and hope.
Gripping....Provocatively dark and at times downright scary, this novel will have readers rushing to the unforeseen, achingly authentic conclusion.
Kathi Appelt
Extraordinary....The Chosen One is brave, its plumb is true, it's a masterpiece.
Gregory Maguire
Makes the heart race, the teeth grind, and the brow bead up in sweat.
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)

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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.

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