Leslie Connor’s Waiting for Normal, published by Harper Collins imprint Katherine Tegen Books in 2008, is a young adult novel.
The story centers on twelve-year-old Addison “Addie” Schmeeter. When she was three her father died, and Addie was left in the care of her unstable mother. Addie welcomes her mother’s decision to marry Dwight, who becomes a balanced and reliable part of their lives. Over time, Dwight and Addie’s mother have two more children. Dwight takes good care of the family.
Addie has come to expect that good things do not often last when it comes to her mother because her mother suffers from a bipolar disorder. Her mother asks for a divorce and demands that Dwight move out of their house, and then she disappears for three days. Addie must care for the two younger sisters. Over time, Dwight is able to obtain custody of his two girls, but not Addie. Her mother manages to lose their house and they must move into a trailer.
Addie perseveres and befriends the people who live next door and operate a gas station. She begins to learn to read music and plays the flute in an attempt to perform in her school’s orchestra. She struggles with dyslexia, but does not allow this deficiency to stand in her way. Dwight also makes an effort to regularly visit with Addie and bring her two sisters.
Throughout this upheaval, Addie struggles to maintain a “normal” life and a sense of optimism. Her mother’s erratic moods have become a fact of her life. Addie represents a girl that is neglected by her mother, but is not the subject of overt abuse. She manages to find any sliver of hope that propels her forward.
Reviewer’s criticize Conner for a story that relies on a common subject—that of a girl who overcomes difficult circumstances. Yet, reviewers praise her for exploring challenging subjects (learning disabilities, cancer, and neglect) without sensationalizing them. The storyline contains few surprises to escalate the plot. Yet, the idea of kids raising themselves and becoming responsible for dysfunctional parents are topics worthy of more twenty-first century thought.