Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor is not an easy read for a kid, because Addie, the 12-year-old girl at the center of novel, does not have an easy life. She lives in a small trailer with her neglectful mother–and when I say “neglectful,” I mean it–and desperately misses her stepfather and younger siblings, who have moved away because of her mother’s inability to function and care for the children. Addie gets to visit them, but even those visits are difficult because they highlight for her what she does not have: a stable, loving home. Addie is a kid who has to fend for herself, physically and emotionally, and it can be heartbreaking to read her story. But in spite of her difficult situation, Addie is full of spirit and spunk and optimism, and her character moves and teaches readers about strength and perseverance and the power of community.
And, hey, in addition to educational value, kids simply LOVE this book. Addie is a character they can relate to; even if her life circumstances are very different from their own, her voice and feelings make sense to them. I sometimes have a difficult time getting a kid to check out the book (the plot description is daunting, I think), but when they do take it, they almost always come back saying, “I really liked that book. Do you have more like it?” and/or come back a year later saying, “I want to reread that book.” My own daughter (age 11) read a library copy, then chose it as her annual book to donate to the lower school library, and then bought her own copy at the school book fair. If that’s not book love, I don’t know what is!