Have you heard about the Looking for Normal books? They might be just the thing for your teenage and YA children and students, and hey,why not – even for you! Especially if you are dealing with such kids/adults:).
Another one of Jean Gill’s brilliant stories! The best thing a book can do is pull you in and make you think and feel, and this one does just that. No matter whether you are an adult or a teenager, this is definitely a story you should let into your library. Every educator and parent should read it, and so should teenagers (although we might try telling them they shouldn’t, just to increase the chances of it actually being enticing to them).
The story touches on numerous important issues about growing up, without preaching, judging, laying blame or displaying any prejudice. Introducing the theme of prejudice through the seemingly simple problems of a left-hander in the right-handed world lures us into seeing our world as it is – filled with prejudice all around. We realize how many times all of us show it, unaware, yet effectively hurting each other. The witty and humorous parts of the story and the wonderful characters will feed your soul, and basically inspire you to be a better person, not a mere conformist. A special treasure are the various kinds of parents in the story – they made me angry and smile at the same time, as I recognized myself in their attempts at doing what’s best for their kids and loved them for it. Jamie and Ryan will, no doubt, resonate with teenagers – there is so much to relate to with those bright kids growing into great people.
The author shows admirable understanding of the teenage mind, led primarily by their emotional world, as they try to tug themselves out into reasonable adulthood. She displays the depth of their conviction, which sometimes may be misguided, but is deeply felt nonetheless, and we should therefore respect it in all its seriousness. For instance, when the main character Jamie observes her mother and never wants to be like her – we’ve all been there, right? Or when Ryan (mis)judges his mother’s intentions – that scene made me rethink my own relationship with my son. Reading about Kelly’s misplaced trust and about Ryan’s new school, opened my eyes to the fact that it is no wonder how many teenagers enjoy gaming and fantasy so much – it is easier to bear than their own reality. But life has its twists and turns, and when we try to do better, we can, as Jean Gill proves. The story is permeated with author’s expressive style gems, such as comparing Jamie’s family to a bus terminal, informative texts about left-handers (with charming comments by the main characters) and the realistic family conversations.
As a parent and a teacher, I felt this book in my gut. It hits so close to home on more levels than I can count. I felt for all those kids, all those teachers and parents trying, failing and succeeding at doing the best they can. It is amazing to see how similar parenthood is all around the world, how many things can go wrong, how many times misunderstandings stem from brief, implied (mis)communication instead of good old-fashioned listening. This may well be the best writing by Jean Gill I’ve read yet, and I am so happy to know there are so many books I still haven’t read by this author.
PS: You can never have enough of a good thing. Not only was I fortunate enough to read Left Out (and enjoy its remakewith this great new cover), but there is also a sequel – Fortune Kookie coming out. It is the second part of the Looking for Normal trilogy. Quality reading for me and my YA learners!