Book Review: Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

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Title: Miles from Ordinary

Author: Carol Lynch Williams

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 197

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes



Lacey has never been able to be like regular kids, since she was forced by shitty circumstances to become the sole caretaker of her severely mentally ill mother. Since her aunt left them to figure things out by themselves, Lacey spends all of her time when she’s not in school making sure her mom doesn’t hurt herself or upset the neighbors. Lacey’s mom thinks her father (Lacey’s grandfather) is still alive and dutifully follows his directions, no matter how dangerous and nonsensical the requests are.


When the story starts Lacey tries to get her mother set up with a job, because she needs to find some work too and wants some time to herself. If you’re guessing that the shit hits the fan when Lacey leaves her mom at her new job while hoping for the best, you’d be right. Lacey’s mother disappears quickly from the grocery store where she’s supposed to be working, and Lacey and a well-meaning classmate set out to find her as an intense storm descends upon them.


I liked Lacey’s character for the most part but I couldn’t help noticing she had strong similarities to Kyra from The Chosen One, the first book I read by Carol Lynch Williams. Both heroines are naïve yet extremely resilient and have an almost identical narrative voice. I read The Chosen One shortly before I read Miles From Ordinary, and even though I’m not sure what book was written first I still had a hard time not thinking of Lacey as Kyra 2.0. Like The Chosen One, Miles From Ordinary was a total page-turner and the horrific situation the protagonist was in is immediately compelling.


Even though the mother’s life situation was tragic, it was very hard to feel much sympathy for her. She came off as completely helpless and out-of-control with a cruel streak that became increasingly obvious as the story progressed. I did feel a bit sorry for her at times because of her total withdrawal from reality and because I honestly think her dad molested her but mostly I just felt like slapping her. I feel the story might have been a little better if Carol Lynch Williams had made the mother’s character a little more sympathetic and human so we could understand better why Lacey was so devoted to her despite everything.


Lacey also came off as extremely naïve for thinking she could just get her mother to start working a regular job when she was obviously out to lunch from the very beginning. The only thing I really didn’t like about this book was the way it equated mental illness to personal weakness at the end. It implied Lacey wasn’t going to end up crazy like her mother because she’s ‘strong.’


That’s obviously 100% bullshit and sends a stupid message to teens that developing a serious condition like schizophrenia (which is obviously what the mother has) is a result of giving up or not trying hard enough to be mentally healthy. If you can ignore the ridiculous assumptions about mental illness, this book is very entertaining and easy to breeze through in one sitting.



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