What I’m Reading: Waiting for Normal, King of the Mild Frontier

This week I did some speed reading through a couple of books.

First was Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, one of the gift books from Tony. This is a middle-grade novel about a 12-year-old girl, Addie, who lives in a trailer with her jobless, bi-polar, priority-challenged mother. Her mother and step-father, Dwight, have recently gotten a divorce, separating Addie from her younger half-sisters. Addie finds herself worrying about a number of things, like the flute she accidentally stole when she suddenly moved and changed schools, not having a “love of learning” since reading comes hard to her, and how many days her mother will disappear for this time. I found myself very stressed out for this girl as she struggles to keep everyone from knowing that things are wrong, all the time wishing she could just have a normal life. The anxiousness is part of what kept me from putting down the book for two days but the language also kept me hooked. Waiting for Normal is almost 300 pages, but I didn’t feel like I was reading something long because of the fun, simple way Connor tells the story. Take this part, as Addie watches her sisters deal with their mom after she has messed up, again:

“It’s just a sundae.” Brynna dropped her head, started messing with her napkin again. Her fudge sundae puddled around the spoon in the dish.

“You gonna finish? It looks like soup.” Mommers smiled. But Brynna wouldn’t look up. She just kept twisting that napkin.

“We seed Christmas lights,” Katie piped.

“Did you now? Any snowmen? Any reindeer?” Mommers asked.

And so it went for the rest of the night. Katie kept everything light and sweet. But I wondered what would happen when she grew up–like Brynna. We’d be this whole family of napkin twisters.

A “whole family of napkin twisters.” A simple statement, but it sums it all up.

I’ve also read most of King of the Mild Frontier, a memoir by Chris Crutcher, my Lesley mentor from last semester. Jumping around through his own timeline, Crutcher talks about a number of events that happened through his childhood and adolescence. While some parts of the story are sad, like the day his father died, it’s mostly a really hilarious book, even the painful bits – like being whammed in the mouth by a baseball bat. My life was a little less insane than his seems to have been, but reading this book is making me think that, maybe I could write a memoir someday.

After I finish up this book I’ll be starting in on The Handmaid’s Tale and Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for MFA reading. And, at some point, I have got to catch up on all the A Song of Ice and Fire books so I can read A Dance with Dragons – maybe when it’s in paperback, at this rate.

What I’m Reading: Gunslingers, Androids and Other Borrowed Things

I’ve been a little ADD with my reading recently; I keep starting new books, even when I’ve only made it a couple dozen pages into another one. Part of this comes from the fact that I keep borrowing books from the library, and other people.

The GunslingerMy brother had been trying to get me to read The Gunslinger, the first novel in Steven King’s The Dark Tower series, for a while now, and last time I visited I finally took the book back with me. I had tried to read it before, but I had trouble getting into and wound up setting it back down. I had an easier time of it this go around, but it’s still frustrating how little King lets you know about what’s going on. I’m not sure why the gunslinger is chasing the man, or what the importance of the tower is. I’m near the end, and I still don’t know if I’ll be let in on the secret. Still, that I’m interested enough to keep reading is a sign of how good of a job King did with the gunslinger’s character; despite my frustrations, I’m still more interested in learning about him. I’m just under 50 pages away from the end, so I should finish the book today if I don’t get distracted…

Which I just might. Another book I’m borrowing is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. A co-worker handed it off to me a couple weeks ago, but I’m still only a few chapters in. I’m having my usual issue with science fiction stories where I blank out during some of the more technical descriptions, but I’m enjoying the futuristic world set up here, like how owning a real animal versus an electric one is a sign of higher social status, but it’s also something embarrassing that people just don’t ask about.

Other books I’ve been picking at:

OtomenI finished volumes 2 and 3 of Eyeshield 21, a football manga about a scrawny kid who’s really, really fast. It’s been a great bunch of goofy fun about a kid learning he can be good about something. I’ll probably request the next couple of volumes soon.

I also started Otomen, also from the library. This is a shojo manga bout the toughest guy in school…who loves girl manga, sewing, cooking, and cute things.

I’ve also started Speak, a young adult novel about a girl who has been abandoned by her friends after ratting out a party. She feels she can’t talk about why she did it, even in narration to the reader, so she’s left to suffer alone. It’s making me very anxious.

I’ll probably still work on my unfinished books this week, though I’ll be reading a couple other manga and comics for reviews. What have you been reading?