Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor. (Grades 4-7)
Addie's family life has never been what she would call "normal". Her mom is unreliable, all or nothing, excited about a new business venture one day, chain smoking in front of the TV the next. And sometimes Mommers leaves for days at a time.
Addie's ex-step-father Dwight looks out for her as best he can. He lives with her two half-sisters in another town and thought Addie loves him and he loves her, he can't get custody because he's not blood related.
Oh, Addie's a strong one and she copes pretty well. She's learned to cook with whatever groceries Mommers leaves for her, dividing up the food to stretch it as long as possible. Although she has dyslexia, she works hard at her school work and her music. But as long as Addie can remember, she's just been getting by, taking each day as it comes... and always, always waiting for normal.
I absolutely fell in love with Addie. She's certainly a great candidate to be your next BLF (Best Literary Friend). Although it seems like so much is stacked against her, Addie's an eternal optimist. She always believes that her mom will come home before the food runs out. She believes that she can learn the music for her school concert even though reading music is pretty much impossible for her. She's tenacious and full of life, despite the obstacles in her path.
She's also friendly and very loving. In so many foster kid/screwed-up-home-life novels, the kids are completely distrusting of other people, sometimes even hostile so that they won't be betrayed again. Addie is just the opposite. She quickly makes friends with the quirky folks who run the minimart across the street. She makes friends at her new school. And she unfailingly trusts her mother to take care of things, sometimes to her own detriment.
The book is very character-based, not heavy on plot. But that's one of its charms. For those looking to read a book with a main character you'll love to get to know and a handful of interesting secondary characters, this book entirely fits the bill. In that respect, it reminds me of Heartbeat by Sharon Creech. I'd also definitely hand this one to fans of Shug by Jenny Han.
Read more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and Literate Lives.