Bookmarks Issue: 

A-Miles from Ordinary-YACarol Lynch Williams, an award-winning writer for children and young adults, has published more than a dozen books. Her recent novels include Glimpse (2010) and The Chosen One (2009); her latest is recommended for grades 6–9.

The Story: Lacey, 13, seemingly lives a normal life on the outside. But at home, she is the sole caregiver for her mother, who suffers from paranoia and bipolar disorder. Although their lives are filled with hardship and she wishes for a normal teenage life, the lonely Lacey, plagued by nightmares and stifled by her home life, loves her mother. One summer morning, Lacey wakes up filled with hope: she is thrilled to start her new job at the library, while her mother is supposed to begin work at the grocery store. But as the day progresses, Lacey's dream of an ideal day quickly, terrifyingly, spirals downward.
St. Martin's Griffin. 197 pages. $16.99. ISBN: 9780312555122

Confessions of a Book Addict 4 of 5 Stars
"[Williams] is able to clue the readers in slowly regarding Lacey's background and experiences through flashbacks and memories embedded into the present day. ... There are some moments that are pretty violent and intense; in fact, if you aren't a fan of psychological thrillers, I'd skip this one." Christina

I Swim for Oceans 4 of 5 Stars
"Carol Lynch Williams nailed Lacey's voice with a raw, insightful and powerful look into a young girl's mind as she tries to hold both her life and her mother's life together. Pieced together with stark and simple prose, a haunting background and a setting that sets a scene of its own, Miles from Ordinary is one of those stories that resonates real feeling from every page." Melissa

YA Librarian Tales 4 of 5 Stars
"The book is a tense ride from the very beginning until the end. ... This is a slim story but it does not shy away from the harsh realities of mental illness." Sarah

Young Adult Books Central 3 of 5 Stars
"Like her previous novel, The Chosen One, Williams steps artfully inside the shoes of a guilt-ridden teenager who feels trapped and suffocated by her home life. ... I felt the novel started off a bit slow, and I found Williams' choppy writing style got in the way of the story." MG Buehrlen

Critical Summary

Few writers, critics agreed, can delve as successfully into the mind of a teenager as Williams. Here, the author explores the innermost experiences of a girl trapped by her mother's mental illness and her home life. Although told over one day, the story's flashbacks provide context for Lacey's family life. Reviewers especially praised Lacey's distinct, very real voice and strong but vulnerable character. Only the Young Adult Books Central critic faulted the novel for its fragmented writing and slow start but, like other reviewers, came "to care about Lacey" deeply. In sum: "It's a slim story but ... it packs more than a punch" (YA Librarian Tales).