Waiting for Normal
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Waiting for Normal

4.5 147
by Leslie Connor

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Addie is waiting for normal. But Addie's mother has an all-or-nothing approach to life: a food fiesta or an empty pantry, her way or no way. All-or-nothing never adds up to normal, and it can't bring Addie all to home, where she wants to be with her half sisters. But Addie never stops hoping that one day, maybe, she'll find normal.

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Addie is waiting for normal. But Addie's mother has an all-or-nothing approach to life: a food fiesta or an empty pantry, her way or no way. All-or-nothing never adds up to normal, and it can't bring Addie all to home, where she wants to be with her half sisters. But Addie never stops hoping that one day, maybe, she'll find normal.

Editorial Reviews

The Horn Book
“Connor convincingly portray’s Addie’s beyond-her-years resourcefulness and the opposing feelings that drive her to protect the life she has while longing to be a permanent part of the ‘normal’ home her sisters occupy with her stepfather.”
Publishers Weekly

Connor (Dead on Town Line) treats the subject of child neglect with honesty and grace in this poignant story. Addie's stepfather, Dwight, has always been the responsible one in the family. But after he and her mother divorce, and he gets custody of Addie's two younger half-sisters, it's up to Addie, a sixth-grader, to keep order in the tiny trailer that Dwight has found for Addie and her mother. While her mother disappears for days at a time with her new boyfriend, Addie cultivates friendships with people she meets at a neighboring convenience store, but the affection she receives from others doesn't compensate for the absence of love in her home. Addie works hard to fill the void her volatile mother creates, and Addie's attempts to make things "normal" result in some of the most moving scenes: she keeps the cabinets full by putting empty boxes of food on the shelf "for show." In such moments Connor shows both the extent to which Addie has been abandoned and just how resilient and resourceful she is. Characters as persuasively optimistic as Addie are rare, and readers will gravitate to her. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Eleven-year-old Addie is afflicted with a lazy, sloppy, selfish, computer chat-obsessed mother. Addie's mother and her latest husband Dwight are recently divorced. Dwight has custody of the two girls he and Addie's mother had together, but Addie is stuck living with her mother in a seedy trailer planted next to a train track, a mini-mart, a laundromat and a couple of abandoned parking lots. Life would be grim, except Addie has a gift for seeing the brighter side. Dwight, a good, responsible man, often brings her little sisters to visit. Addie makes friends with the owner of the mini-mart, a prodigiously fat woman in poor health. She tries hard in school and builds on her talents. Raised to believe that she doesn't have "the love of learning" by her mother, the truth is that Addie is dyslexic. In spite of her limitations, Addie has heart and takes joy in simple pleasures. She wins the support of her teachers; she excels in playing her stolen flute, helps out her neighbor, loves her little sisters, and takes care, as best she can, of her hapless mother. If Addie's mother would only realize Addie is the adult in the relationship, their lives might go better. Unfortunately, Addie's mother makes decisions that lead to disasters, including another stray pregnancy. Addie's dream is to be normal. She defines that as knowing what's going to happen from one day to the next. Maybe because of her optimism and resulting likeability, eventually that's exactly what she gets. This book persuades that good people and delightful possibilities are all around, even in the most unpromising circumstances. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: Myrna Marler (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Before the divorce, life with her stepfather and half-sisters gave sixth grader Addie a glimpse of normal life. Now, though, she is stuck in a trailer in a dreary part of Schenectady, New York, with her mercurial and unreliable mother. Resilient Addie, however, makes the most of every situation. She befriends the owner of a nearby minimart, plays flute at school, and makes the trailer a home. Although yearning to belong to her stepfather's new family-which she visits-Addie tries to keep believing her mother's promises of prosperity, and to keep "Mommers's" prolonged absences a secret. When a disaster reveals her abandonment, though, Addie discovers many heroes eager to help her out-and maybe, at last, to get her the normal life she craves. This novel is all about character, and Addie's shines. She personifies loyalty, optimism, hard work, pragmatism, and courage. Like such beloved heroines as Sara Crewe, Polly Pepper, and Little Orphan Annie, Addie effortlessly finds the positive in life, without denying its bleak realities, and earns true friends who catch her when she falls. The other characters-especially the vibrant, self-obsessed Mommers; the bighearted, cancer-ridden minimart owner; and the loving stepfather-are engagingly multilayered as well. There are no villains here, just real people. The book's only flaws are that Mommers's activities are kept too secret, building an unfulfilled sense of mystery, and that the story spreads out over too long a time period, slowing its momentum. Try with fans of the well-deserved happy ending. Reviewer: Rebecca C. Moore
Sarah de Verges
Twelve-year-old Addie is used to taking care of herself. Her mother is unstable, unreliable, and mostly absent, and she has been separated from her stepfather and little sisters. As Addie adjusts to a new life in a small trailer under a bridge in Schenectady, New York, she realizes that the thing she really wants is to just be normal. In this novel, we meet a heroine in a young girl whose future seems anything but bright. Connor introduces us to Addie, a ray of sunshine in the dismal world around her. Addie's optimism, sensitivity, and honesty bring joy to the people she meets. As you read this sincere though heart-wrenching novel, you will feel yourself wishing, more than anything, a "normal" life for Addie. Reviewer: Sarah de Verges
School Library Journal

Gr 6-8- A story centered around loss, heartbreak, abandonment, and new beginnings. Although Dwight is no longer Addie's stepfather due to his divorce from her mother, the two still share an unbreakable bond. Dwight secures a trailer for Addie and her mother in an unremarkable part of Schenectady, NY. Mommers sleeps during the day and leaves Addie at night to pursue "business" interests with her new boyfriend. Meanwhile, Dwight has moved to Lake George with Addie's half sisters, for whom he was awarded custody. Despite the many upheavals in her young life, Addie adjusts as well as she can. She participates in the school orchestra, despite the fact that her dyslexia makes learning the music challenging. Her mother's antipathy toward Dwight doesn't prevent her from allowing Addie to visit him and her sisters during school breaks, during which she gets a taste of normalcy. However, the woman's irresponsibility, inability to tell the truth, and frequent absences, often for days at a time, put Addie in danger. Connor has created a winning and positive father-figure/daughter relationship between Dwight and Addie. She introduces serious topics such as cancer, neglect, and learning disabilities without sensationalizing or trivializing the subjects. Although Mommers is clearly an unfit parent, Connor does show believable instances of her love for her children, juxtaposed with scenes of embarrassingly childish behavior and cutting remarks.-Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A heroine with spunk and spirit offers an inspiring lesson in perseverance and hope. When a young girl's parents divorce, she's separated from her stepfather and her two young half-sisters. Life is far from normal as Addie and her irresponsible mother settle into a tiny trailer on the corner of an urban intersection. Addie admits, "I'm good at getting used to things-been doing it all my life," and immediately makes a cozy nest for herself in the trailer. She optimistically starts sixth grade, makes friends, meets her neighbors and keeps house on a shoestring while her unpredictable mother spends days sleeping and nights chatting on the Internet. Challenged by dyslexia, Addie works extra hard to succeed in school and learn her flute part in the orchestra. Yearning for a "normal" life, Addie's shaken when her stepfather and sisters move away leaving her on her own with her moody mother who disappears for days. Disappointed and alone, Addie realistically makes the best of a bad situation. In the end, her positive attitude and ability to find happiness make all the difference as she patiently waits for "normal." First-rate. (Fiction. 10-13)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Waiting for Normal

Chapter One

Tin box on a tar patch

Maybe Mommers and I shouldn't have been surprised; Dwight had told us it was a trailer even before we'd packed our bags. But I had pictured one of those parks—like up on Route 50. I thought trailers were always in trailer parks. I expected a little grass patch out front, daisy-shaped pinwheels stuck into the ground, one of those white shorty fences and a garden gnome.

Dwight crossed traffic and pulled the truck up over the curb. When he stopped, Mommers' head bumped against the window. "What are we doing here?" she asked. I watched Dwight's face for the answer. Dwight is my stepfather. Well, he's really my ex-stepfather since he and Mommers split for good. That was two years ago. (It's best to know right from the beginning that my family is hard to follow—like a road that keeps taking twists and turns.) But Dwight had always told me, there'll be no "ex" between you and me, Addie, girl, and I believed him.

"I said, what are we doing here?" Mommers repeated.

"This is the place," Dwight mumbled.

Mommers sat up. She opened her eyes wide and looked out the front windshield. Then she screamed. "Dwight! You've got to be kidding me! This is the city!"

Dwight leaned away from her—protecting his ear—and in that quiet way he's got about him, he told Mommers, "Come on, Denise. Let's not go over it again. You know this is all I've got left. You can move in here, or go to Jack's place." He slid out of the truck.

Mommers swung her door open so hard it came back at her. She kicked it and it whined on the hinge."I can't live with Jack!"

She was talking about my grandfather on my father's side. I call him Grandio. That's his grandpa name, which my father taught me to say a long time ago. That's about all my father had time to teach me; he died when I was barely three. I've always kind of felt as if my father gave me Grandio—or tried to anyway—that he left him to me so I'd have as much family as possible. Thing is, he kind of left Grandio to Mommers, too. I've never seen two people who wanted less to do with each other.

"I hate Jack!" Mommers hollered at Dwight. "And I hate you!"

"I know," said Dwight, as if he had accepted that a long time ago.

I unfolded myself from the back of the cab, where I'd been squashed in the little jump seat, and slipped down to the ground. Dwight lifted our bags out of the back of his truck and handed Mommers a key.

"Go in and have a look. We can work on it some if you want," he said. "And the computer is in for you and Addie." He tried to say all this with a hopeful note in his throat—Dwight always did that.

But Mommers threw the key down hard as she could. It hit the ground with a tiny ringing sound like a little chime. "I suppose you want me to overflow with gratitude!" she yelled. "I get a cruddy tin box for a house and a dinosaur for a computer! Lucky me! What about the duplex, Dwight? You could have given me that!"

"The duplex is gone to pay for the house, Denise." Dwight kept his lips in a line. Mommers kicked at her own overstuffed suitcase. Then she said all kinds of other things I won't mention, but boy, did I hear some language.

Dwight walked away from her. That might have seemed mean to anyone who happened to be watching that day, but I didn't really blame him. He had my little sisters to think of—half sisters, that is. They're Dwight's kids. I'm not. (Like I said, my family is full of twists and turns.) He leaned down and gave me a shaky hug. I squeezed him back and swallowed hard. He whispered into my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Addie, girl." Then he looked at me eye to eye and said, "I'll be around—you know that."

I nodded. "And you'll bring Brynna and Katie, right?"

"Of course. As often as I can."

"Then it'll be all right," I said, and I faked a big old smile.

Dwight got back into his truck and raised a hand to wave good-bye. He turned his wheels away from us and with a screech and a lurch, he was outta there.

I stood next to Mommers, both of us looking at the trailer. The thing was dingy and faded. But I could tell that it'd once been the color of sunshine. It was plunked down on a few stacks of cinder blocks at the corner of Freeman's Bridge Road and Nott Street in the city of Schenectady—in the state of New York. It was a busy corner—medium busy, I'd say. The only patch out front was the tarry blacktop bubbling up in the heat of the late summer afternoon. No pinwheels. No garden gnome.

"Can you believe this, Addison?" Mommers said. She stared at the trailer door. "That reprobate."

"Reprobate?" I said. "There's one for my vocabulary book."

"Yeah, Addie. And for the definition, you just write Dwight!"

She fell into a heap and started to cry. I stooped beside Mommers. I gave her shoulder a pat, tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn't. Then the little flash of silver caught my eye. I reached down and picked up the key.

Waiting for Normal. Copyright © by Leslie Connor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Leslie Connor is the author of several award-winning books for children, including Waiting for Normal, winner of the ALA Schneider Family Book Award, Crunch, Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel, and Dead on Town Line, a young adult novel in verse. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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