What exactly is normal anyway? Now in paperback, this story tackles recovery and second chances with humor and heart
Life as a parent to two young girls can be an emotional roller coaster. My older daughter, Brooke, is growing up and she loves stories that are now geared more towards books in something called the ‘mid-grade’ reader category. I have always been in love with reading, but it has been a long time since I enjoyed a book like A Blind Guide to Normal that is so filled with raw emotion geared to this age. I read this book with my daughter over her winter break from school. As a parent, I do a fair amount of second guessing as my girls are learning that ‘no, mom doesn’t know what I’m thinking’ – even when they think I should. Ha! The title of the book drew me in because we all know that there is no ‘normal’ in life. We all have this inner monologue that feeds us and gets us through painful, difficult and joyful situations that are unique to each of us. It’s human. I constantly adjust expectations in life by experience and my daughters’ abilities and interests factor in to that. This is their lives and I want them to have joy, empathy, and the ability to assess situations and information with emotional intelligence. Realistically, life sometimes throws you a wrench when you need a spoon and as a parent to young children, you can feel as if you get hit if your child is having a tough time. I do my best to try and interpret situations to understand my children and now Brooke is really starting to understand that she does have the ability to process situations – even if they are difficult – and can make peace with them. She is truly understanding that while her situation is unique, each individual is doing the same thing with their inner monologue and I like to think everyone is trying their best to do the same.
The book, A Blind Guide to Normal, is about the emotional roller coaster of newly minted 8th grader, Ryder, and his struggles as he begins life as a ‘normal’ kid when he doesn’t feel ‘normal’. Being able to peek into a person’s life and understand their emotions – even if their situation is not similar, is what makes me love reading. It helps build empathy in a world where people aren’t always forthcoming with their personal battles; but we know we all have them. Ryder is a cancer survivor and the disease has caused him to have limited vision and a prosthetic eye. Normal is the sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville (which Brooke and I now want to read!) in which Ryder is adjusting to a year at the boarding school, Addison School for the Blind, where he is quite popular and made lots of friends and was even a mentor. Normal is about his journey on going back to a ‘regular normal’ school in 8th grade. It doesn’t go as well as he had hoped!
The unique perspective of A Blind Guide to Normal is refreshing. The characters in the book have flaws and difficult circumstances that aren’t fair and yet there is such a human quality of hope and peace. The author, who is from a small town in Pennsylvania, brings life to the hormones and pain of an 8th grader’s adjustment to ‘normal’ life after cancer. Ryder uses his comedic timing to deflect awkwardness, he flies into rages, and he has a confusing crush on the most popular boy’s girlfriend who happens to be his neighbor. Papuaville Middle School could have been my middle school. Brooke is a few years away from middle school but I imagine while technology and techniques of learning have changed, the human experience of being on the cusp of adulthood while still feeling like a kid probably hasn’t changed. Ryder’s feelings are relate-able, his reactions (while a little disturbing at times) are expected, and his interactions with other flawed-yet coping characters is familiar. What I really got out of the book were conversations with Brooke I thought I’d be having a few years right now. Brooke is quickly developing a separate inner monologue from her outer monologue with the realization that the people close to her (like me!) aren’t thinking exactly what she is thinking at any given moment. We have to share things with each other and I am trying to make sure I am handling everything she talks to me about in an understanding and empathetic way. I am at a place in my life where I am trying to enjoy the journey as much as I think I’d enjoy the destination and it gave Brooke and I a chance to reflect on today. No one is normal and no one is perfect, but we are trying our best. Brooke is doing her best and so am I. And so is Ryder. Reading A Blind Guide to Normal was a great way to spend a winter break with my ‘mid-grade’ reader. Brooke and I plan to follow-up on reading A Blind Guide to Stinkville and hope Vrabel is writing a trilogy!
About the Author: Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.
About Sky Pony Press: Sky Pony Press, with Good Books, Racehorse and Arcade imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of books for young readers—picture books for small children, chapter books, books for middle grade readers, and novels for young adults. Their list includes bestsellers for children who love to play Minecraft; stories told with LEGO bricks; books that teach lessons about tolerance, patience, and the environment, and much more. While not every title they publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, they are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
List Price: $ 7.99