Not Exactly Normal

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Devin Brown
Eerdmans Books
0802852831
January 2006
They speak the same language and share a lot of our values but America is clearly not simply the home counties with better shopping.

Not Exactly Normal is a US tale for nine-year-olds and up. It�s the story about Todd Farrell who is interested in soccer, slightly confused by girls, particularly Leda from California and inspired by a Dead Poets Society style teacher at a slightly quirky school in New England.

That short pr�cis could easily be translated to a British environment and make an equally interesting read but the style and the characters would be very different.

In Devin Brown�s story the characters are more self-conscious and dare I say it more precocious than their UK counterparts would be. Religion is firmly at the centre of community life � not a bad thing in itself � but the way moral points are made seems overtly formal even simplistic.

At an age when their sisters are entering into the weird and wonderful world of Jacqui Wilson, the families in Not Exactly Normal will seem defiantly conventional and well, normal to boys in the UK.

The core of the book is Todd�s quest to write a school report on mystical experiences � not something that features on the UK syllabus. After a poor performance in his previous project he�s determined to do better and resolves to have his own mystical experience.

He makes a lot of notes in the library, he plays a lot of soccer (sic), learns a bit about selflessness and inclusiveness and rescues his best friend from certain death in an icy river. Finally, however, he has his own mystical experience and can report back to his class.

This is a book about ideas rather than fast-paced plotting, a brave move in these days of Young Bond and Harry Potter. A cultural curiosity rather than a must read.



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This page contains a single entry by Alastair Ray published on April 12, 2006 8:42 PM.

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