Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

In Waiting for Normal, Addie has been coping with her mother’s erratic behavior for most of her life.  Her mom is an “all or nothing” person, she explains.  When her mom and her stepfather separate and her mom leaves Addie at home with her half-sisters for 3 days, life is turned upside down.   The resulting divorce has led to Addie living with her bipolar mother, while custody of Addie’s half-sisters has been given to her loving step-father.  

Addie had a taste of normal when her mom was married to Dwight, but now it seems that she is just “waiting for normal”.  Her mom can never quite get there.  Dwight does everything he can for them, setting them up in a small trailer.  But the courts won’t give him custody of Addie.  Her mother is constantly flying from man to man and idea to idea.  Whether she is staying up all night to chat online or getting involved in pyramid scheme businesses, Addie is stuck caring for herself and her mother.  

At first glance, this may sound like one of those over-the-top, everything is terrible, could never really happen books.  But as you get deeper into the story, you realize there are a lot of Addies out there. We have kids raising themselves and caring for their dysfunctional parents all over the country.  And Addie isn’t blatantly abused. She is just neglected by a mother who can’t care for her daughter, even though she thinks she is doing the right thing.  Addie is resilient, even though she thinks she isn’t.  I found myself getting teary-eyed at the end of the book, because I felt like I knew her, and I was so proud of her!

This is a great book for middle grade girls.  It’s not that I don’t think boys would enjoy the story, but there are quite a few mentions of Addie’s experiences with puberty.  This is the same reason I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading it out loud.  It’s definitely a book that I can see some of my girls reading and enjoying, but I can’t think of any of my boys who would have the desire to read about periods (or the ability to do so without hysterical laughter).  However, the story is wonderful and it breaks my heart to think of how many Addies are out there right now, hiding their reality from friends, family, and teachers.