Friday, April 22, 2011


Light-years from middling, not just MILES FROM ORDINARY.

That is Carol Lynch Williams's latest novel for youngsters, and it is light-years from middling.

I enjoyed reading the novel, but, in the interests of full disclosure, I am an oldster, and probably not among those of its primary audience. After reading Williams's THE CHOSEN ONE, however, I just had to read her latest offering, which is set in a very real, if atypical, world.

Recently, as my wife and I walked through Barnes & Noble, she noted how difficult it seemed to be to find new books for kids and young adults that didn't deal with vampires or other fantastical elements, with dystopian adventures, or alternative realities.

What is it? Have we become so fraught with challenges of everyday living that we have to resort to escapism to entertain and inform our youth?

Well, this novel, MILES FROM ORDINARY, fits the bill for the here and now; it is very real and most compelling, yet just as horrifying and challenging of mind as anything in fantasyland or sci-fi. It doesn't have the ubiquitous vampires or a panoply of Hogwarts-like characters or characteristics; it isn't dystopian, and its realities aren't alternative. At some point in time, all of us, even the youth among us have to face reality.

After all, who needs the paranormal when you can read first-hand paranoia and insanity in a tight, fast moving story arc like this one? Or when you can see the effects of mental illness in Lacey's mother and its consequent demands and eventual effects upon the thirteen-year-old's life. She simply longs for some degree of family normalcy and friendship outside of home.

Lacey indeed: the delicate interweaving of a thread of life of a sensitive, caring, and concerned daughter of a very sick and, as it turns out, most dangerous mother. Lacey. Dicey.

But this novel produces the same emotions and intellectual challenges as fantasy and sci-fi do in a far more immediate and practical way. There really are young people like Lacey: classmates, neighbors, riders on buses, customers at the grocery store. Not only do the children and teens in such circumstances need to read this book and understand its implications, but everyone does. We all need to realize that our society is diverse and contains all the horror and intrigue of fantasy or sci-fi. It behooves us to recognize it and to show the proper sensitivity for it, and face it more realistically.

Carol Lynn Williams's MILES FROM ORDINARY, in my estimation, achieves that end.

It isn't perfect. There were a few grammatical and punctuation errors. (After all, I was reading from an advanced, uncorrected proof.) Some of the other criticisms in the critiques present here certainly have validity, but overall the novel has a nice story arc, compelling characters, tremendous conflicts. I believe it is original in the contemporary literature out there for children and young adults. It was a plausible scenario and seemed realistic in its presentation. I didn't find that it made unjustified leaps in logic. I found the writing at times powerful and, at times, a little less than powerful. I liked it's building pace, and what some others took for a slow start, I took as calculated, a deliberate attempt to make the quickening pace more compelling. I thought flashbacks were overused. In fact, I was quite surprised by the number of them given the intended audience.

I wrote Time For All Eternity.

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