Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 978-1481478519
Order from: Indiebound · Amazon · Barnes & Noble
A Junior Library Guild selection
Chosen for Booklist: Surviving Middle School
Read my blog post about the book on the Nerdy Book Club blog.
Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. She knows it’ll be tricky–but like the Greek mythological characters she read about while she was sick, Norah’s up for any challenge.
But seventh grade turns out to be trickier than she thought. Norah’s classmates don’t know what to make of her. Her best friend, Harper, tries to be there for her, but she doesn’t get it, really—and is hanging out with a new group of girls. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?
When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of Greek mythology and art. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret—that she was “that girl” who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story.
But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? Can Nora take her cue from her favorite Greek myth? And then, once she finds the words, can she move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?
"The moment that really sings is when Norah realizes that there are some life experiences that change you forever, and that’s not always a bad thing. Dee, whose acknowledgments hint at family experience with childhood cancer, does an exceptional job accurately depicting Norah’s struggles in a way that is translatable to those with varied understanding of illness. A powerful story not only about illness, but about accepting yourself for who you are—no matter the experiences that shaped you."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Norah Levy is entering seventh grade after being away from school for two years, during which she spent time in and out of the hospital battling leukemia. Transitioning back to the “real world” is challenging–everyone in the seventh grade knows her as “The Girl Who.” She’s tired of being treated like she’s fragile; some students are even jealous of the attention she receives. It doesn’t help that her overprotective parents won’t allow her to participate in after-school or weekend activities with her friends. As she’s making the difficult shift from patient to student, Norah also deals with the everyday challenges of middle school: cliquey friends, crushes on boys, and skipping classes. Readers will empathize with Norah as she tries to rediscover her place amongst people who were her friends. When she is placed in eighth grade math and science (she got ahead during her private tutoring), she bonds with a boy named Griffin over books, Greek myths, and her drawing ability. Norah avoids talking about her cancer at school, so Griffin doesn’t know about her past. When keeping her secret becomes impossible, Norah has to find a way to share her story. She learns is that she has been forever changed by her life experiences–but that’s okay. VERDICT A powerful story about surviving and thriving after serious illness."—School Library Journal, starred review
"The authenticity of Norah’s story can be credited to the author’s own experience as the mother of a cancer patient. But this is not a book about cancer; rather, it’s about the process of moving forward in its wake. Readers who appreciate well-wrought portrayals of transformative middle school experiences, such as Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger (2015), will find a story in a similar spirit here."—Booklist
"In writing this remarkable novel, Barbara Dee has performed an amazing feat. She has traveled to places you hope you will never have to go, and then drawn a lovely, heartbreaking, warm, funny, and ultimately hopeful map of the way back home."—Jordan Sonnenblick, DRUMS, GIRLS AND DANGEROUS PIE
"Barbara Dee has an unfailing sense of the dynamics of middle school social life. Spot-on portrayals of friends and family relationships frame a powerful main character who’s determined to find her way back. Halfway Normal has a brave, kind heart–as tender and triumphant as the main character herself."—Karen Romano Young, HUNDRED PERCENT
"Best New Books for Tweens and Preteens"—TheChildren’sBookReview.com
SLJ: 16 Novels with Tween Appeal—School Library Journal
“An especially great novel for intermediate and middle-school readers who themselves might just be starting to explore how they feel."—Looking for Queer Girls On the Shelves, Horn Book
- If you were in Norah’s place, do you think you’d act the same way with friends and classmates? How much would you share with them? How much would you keep private?
- What do you think about Norah’s parents? If Norah hadn’t become sick, do you think their relationship would be different? How?
- Many people try to help Norah. Whose help is helpful? Whose isn’t? What sort of help would you want if you were in Norah’s shoes?
- Norah is confused about her reaction to the bake sale. Why do you think she reacts the way she does? Do you think you’d have the same reaction?
- Norah identifies with Persephone. Is there a mythological character you identify with? Why?