Books by Carol Lynch Williams

What influences Carol Lynch Williams, author of Miles from Ordinary, when she’s writing? “Lots and lots of classes that amount to nothing except some fun times, as well as classes in the School of Hard Rock...a master's degree in Motherology to Girls, an associate's degree in Arguing with Children, and senior master's degree in Bossing People Around and various other degrees that I don't want to mention for fear I May Intimidate Others.” Credit: Laura Lamando

MESSENGER by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: Oct. 18, 2016

"Another solid outing from Williams. (Paranormal fiction. 12-18)"
A girl who's recently moved to a small Florida town knows the women in her family gain control of supernatural Gifts on their 15th birthdays, but the nature of her own gift might not make Evie happy. Read full book review >
Released: May 20, 2014

"A little something for everyone—history, humor, adventure, time travel—but not a patch on the Magic Tree House. (Adventure. 7-11)"
In an effort to rescue their parents, who are lost in time, a pair of adventurous time-traveling twins goes to Menlo Park, N.J., in 1879, where they meet Thomas Edison and try to stay a step ahead of antagonist Mr. Crowe, a fellow time traveler. Read full book review >
SIGNED, SKYE HARPER by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: May 13, 2014

"A fine story of a mother-and-child reunion, packed with quirky characters and lessons about love. (Historical fiction. 12-16)"
A teen takes a road trip with her longtime crush, her grandmother, their dog and their one-legged rooster in a stolen RV to retrieve her mother, whom she hasn't seen in 11 years. Read full book review >
THE HAVEN by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: March 4, 2014

"Deliciously enigmatic. (Dystopian thriller. 12 & up)"
Shiloh lives with her fellow Terminals in a hospital that claims to protect them from the Disease that threatens them in this creepy dystopia about a doctor who uses children as commodities. Read full book review >
WAITING by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: May 1, 2012

"Exceptional. (Fiction. 12 & up)"
A girl copes with the death of her beloved brother Zach, and the devastation it has wrought on her family. Read full book review >
MILES FROM ORDINARY by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: March 15, 2011

This absorbing portrait of a 13-year-old girl and her struggle to cope with her mentally ill mother transports readers to hope, fear and horror. Lacey just wants to be ordinary. She wants to have a friend and to work at the library, but her apparently psychotic mother dominates her life. The girl must take care of Momma, instead of the other way around. When her mother disappears, Lacey confronts not only her own fears but also her mother's desperate illness. Momma constantly talks to Lacey's dead "Granddaddy," who tells her to do bizarre things. Granddaddy's latest request, however, might get both of them killed. Far more frightening than a ghost story, the novel achieves complete realism as Williams shows readers events through the eyes of a young girl whom the child-protection system has failed. Nevertheless, Lacey has so much spunk that readers are sure she'll survive. The author has crafted both a riveting, unusual suspense tale and an absolutely convincing character in Lacey. The book truly is miles from ordinary, in the very best way. Outstanding. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: June 22, 2010

From the middle of page one, when Hope walks in on her sister holding a shotgun and "thinking about // leaving" (killing herself), emotional velocity never slows. They've grown up intricately bonded: "It is your job, / Liz, / to take care of your / little sister. // And you, Hope, / Momma said / her finger pointing like / she meant it, / you take care of Lizzie." Momma's harsh (musing that she should've aborted them), money's short and Daddy's dead; but the girls have each other and the freedom to roam around their Florida town, so what's causing this new violent depression that forces Lizzie into hospital lockdown? Despite the close first-person narration, hints emerge before Hope quite comprehends them; readers may envision two possibilities about the nature of Lizzie's trauma, by the time dedicated Hope figures it out. Williams leans hard on her free-verse line breaks for drama ("And I almost / forget / every / awful / thing / in / my / life"), and it works. A page-turner for Ellen Hopkins fans. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: May 1, 2009

Intensely gripping and grippingly intense, the story begins with a gasp when Prophet Childs, the leader of a sect called The Chosen Ones, comes to visit the almost-14-year-old Kyra Leigh Carlson and her family to impart the "joyous news" that she's to become the seventh wife of her father's brother, a much older church apostle. Kyra, who lives with her father, three mothers and 21 brothers and sisters in a closely guarded, hyper-religious, polygamous compound, is horrified. The prohibited books she surreptitiously reads have opened her eyes to the wider world, and she has been hoping to marry a young sect member who's been secretly courting her. The forced marriage brings with it more than a whiff of child rape, though Williams unnecessarily pushes every button by also depicting the church hierarchy as murderers who use their religiosity to sadistically control and humiliate their parishioners. Nonetheless, Kyra's terrible dilemma—escaping her fate means betraying her family—is heartbreakingly real, and the final scenes are riveting and suspenseful. (Fiction. 12 & up) Read full book review >
PRETTY LIKE US by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

Shy Beauty (her real name) faces a dilemma in this sensitive tear-jerker. The 12-year-old desperately wants to make friends at school, yet the only child whom she can befriend will cause the rest of her classmates to reject her. New student Alane suffers from the rare condition progeria, which causes her to age early. At age 12, Alane looks as though she were in her 70s. Writing in Beauty's voice, Williams demonstrates strong insight into the sixth-grade mind, effectively portraying Beauty's hesitant overtures toward Alane, which ultimately result in a deep friendship and attendant teen hijinks involving the ill-considered "borrowing" of Beauty's mother's cherished vintage car. The narrative rises above the usual preteen fare, as Williams emphasizes basic morality and the courage required to make the right choices yet maintains a light tone as the girls flirt with the wrong ones. A delightful twist at the end makes the book even more memorable, resulting in a lovely story that will reach many middle-school girls. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
A MOTHER TO EMBARRASS ME by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: March 1, 2001

Laura's big problem is the antics of her mother, who can be guaranteed to garner attention in unusual ways. Mom is a sculptor, ex-model, horrible cook, loves singing loud to old-time rock n'roll, wearing pajamas and bedroom slippers in public, and—worst of all—is pregnant at the ripe old age of 38. Oh horrors, her parents have actually been doing "it." An only child, 12-year-old Laura has little to complain about. She has loving parents in a home with two acres of land, a great best friend, a crush on an older guy, and a passion for reading Richard Peck. Mom never truly does anything that isn't cute or funny, but Laura is the only one who reacts. Dad's no big improvement as his own embarrassing stunt at her first boy-girl party proves. The continuous bombardment of incidents that leaves Laura with an ongoing list of things she'd like to change about her mother seems increasingly vapid and silly as readers learn that there have been five miscarriages and that Mom is beloved by everyone else. The subplot about the neighbor boy who likes Laura and is all too aware that she has a crush on his older brother is equally void of tension. Middle-grade readers may or may not see the humor here—after all, it will sound very familiar. But Laura does have something of a change of heart and her list becomes one of helping her mother do better, rather than changing her completely. An also-ran to Alice or Anastasia. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
CAROLINA AUTUMN by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Carolina, age 14, reeling from the staggering loss of her father and older sister, navigates the beginning of her first year in high school. It seems that with the exception of her sometimes-overwhelming grief, circumstances are improving. Her mother is surfacing from her own year of mourning and the cute, sensitive boy next door "really likes" her. With each step forward, however, something always seems to pull her back. Slowly more of the true story of the family is revealed through Carolina's musings. Williams captures realistic domestic dialogue and family dynamics—dinner-table fights, girl-talks, mom in the morning—and the tentative verbal play of a young romance. When her best friend Mara betrays her, as does the boy, Carolina's notes to her dead sister, a thread throughout the story, become even more poignant. Carolina, Mara, and Garret are typical adolescents, behaving in typical ways; what sets them apart is Carolina's loss of a pathfinder, her sister, and her struggle to find her own way alone. Engaging. (Fiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: June 1, 2000

This is not a story about a jolly, red-suited, fat man and his exploits in the hereafter. Instead, it's a readable, sometimes humorous, and generally implausible novel about the unusual friendships forged by two pairs of unlike young people in the town of Heaven, Florida (pop. 6). Williams (My Angelica, 1999, etc.) tells of 12-year-old Honey DeLoach, who lives with her parents and obnoxious 14-year-old brother, Willie-Bill, in a place that doesn't even exist on a map. Into this close-knit and religious family sweeps famous movie star Miriam Season and her two daughters, 12-year-old Christmas and 17-year-old Easter. Readers will wonder why a renowned personality would choose to live in a remote backwater (the later explanation doesn't really ring true); how she would even know about the town in the first place (not explained); and how Miriam, prior to her move, would know how many boys were in the town (also unexplained). Willie-Bill is smitten with delinquent, bizarre Easter immediately; Honey and Christmas quickly become inseparable friends. Both Season daughters have been ignored by their shallow, self-absorbed mother all their lives and have reacted to her neglect in very different ways. Christmas is desperately sad and lonely; Easter is reprobate and an alcoholic. Under the steadying influence of the DeLoach family and through, literally, the saving grace of Honey's grandfather, a famous evangelist preacher, Christmas discovers a new meaning to life, and both she and Honey grow in friendship and devotion. Willie-Bill and Easter don't fare so well. Apparently unsalvageable, Easter exerts her unsavory influence upon the boy, whose judgment has been thoroughly clouded, and tragedy ultimately ensues. Kids may not buy all of this, but there's appeal in Honey and Christmas's likable and sympathetic characters. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
MY ANGELICA by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: Jan. 1, 1999

A funny love story centered on a winning idea: a boy, in love with a girl who fancies herself a future romance author, doesn't know how to tell her that her writing stinks. Sage Oliver's romance novel, starring beautiful, smart, sexy Angelica, is moving right along. When she reads chapters out loud to her favorite boy, George Blandford, though, he's not impressed. Angelica and the Seminole Indians is awful, but George, a secret poet who has loved Sage forever, can't bring himself to hurt her. His attempts to tell her the truth backfire; Sage is so confident that she misunderstands almost everything he says as further endorsement of her talent. When Sage enters the school's creative writing contest, George can't bear the thought of her being exposed to criticism and rejection; as it turns out, she shares first place honors with George and his anonymous poems—the judges thought Sage was parodying the romance genre brilliantly. For Sage, it's a revelation and a disappointment, but, as this is a comedy, all turns out well. The characters are as interesting and fully formed as the premise, while the Angelica chapters form a lesson in hack-writing that will keep readers amused. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
IF I FORGET, YOU REMEMBER by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: April 1, 1998

From Williams (The True Colors of Caitlynne Jackson, 1997, etc.), a sensitive portrait of a loving family facing the effects of a devastating illness, and an unflinching look at how Alzheimer's destroys its victims. The summer before Elyse enters junior high promises to be a wonderful one, with books lined up to read, a novel to write, plenty of mornings for sleeping in, and, best of all, a new project, working with a boy, Bruce A., on a neighborhood newspaper he's starting. Then her mother gives Elyse and older sister Jordyn some news: Their widowed grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer's, is moving in with them for the summer, when the girls can take care of her. From the beginning Granny's behavior is erratic as she fades in and out of past and present, calling Elyse ``Addie,'' after her own sister, but Elyse clings to a stubborn, unrealistic belief that the older woman will get better if only they are patient. After a series of increasingly unsettling episodes, even Elyse realizes that her grandmother is deteriorating. Once school starts, they institutionalize Granny, to keep her safe, but they bring her home each day after school. Although the ending is upbeat, this is a sad story; Elyse's distress that her beloved grandmother is changing, permanently, for the worse, has the mournful knell of authenticity. The likable characters face problems common to most readers, and do so with grace and courage. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1997

Williams (Tsubu The Little Snail, 1995, etc.) captures the easy rhythms of Florida speech and a vivid lakeside setting—a balm to her heroine's troubled spirit—in this story of abuse and survival. Caitlynne, 12, does the best she can, but she'll never be accepted by the popular girls, one of whom says, ``I'm not trying to be mean. . . . But if you'd just try and keep clean you'd look nicer.'' Popularity, though, is not a true priority for Caitlynne; she is too busy trying to navigate around her unpredictably abusive mother who lashes out verbally and physically at Caitlynne and her sister, Cara. Despite the abuse, Caitlynne loves her mother; she begs her to stay when she prepares to go away for a few months to work on her novel. How will Caitlynne take care of herself and Cara on the little money her mother left? Worse, will she and Cara be separated if the authorities find out their mother is gone? The strength of the novel is Caitlynne herself: Her connection to nature, affection for her sister, and budding romance with baseball-buddy Brandon combine to see her through the tough (really tough) spots. When she realizes she's in over her head, Caitlynne courageously goes for help. Her story is gracefully written and hard to put down. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
ADELINE STEET by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: March 1, 1995

A sequel to Kelly and Me (1993), this episodic book follows the Orton family month by month through their first year of grieving for ten-year-old Kelly, who died at the end of the previous book. Older sister Leah, 12, narrates; she considers Kelly to have been her best friend, and from her perspective come flashes of insight into the healing process of her family. Buying Christmas presents, meeting a new preacher, finding a friend, noticing her old friend Tom for the first time as a cute boy—all are fraught with ambivalence for Leah. She feels guilty for having fun and disloyal for changing in ordinary adolescent ways. There is a believable Southern ring in Leah's voice and many original incidents, but some of her discoveries seem belabored. Completely convincing is the family's numb isolation and gradual reawakening. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
KELLY AND ME by Carol Lynch Williams
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Leah, 11, recounts a summer of outrageous escapades with her sister/best friend Kelly, 10, and ``Papa,'' their recently widowed grandfather. From the first scene, when Papa escapes from a locked bedroom (Leah's parents were desperate to keep him sober) by climbing down knotted designer sheets, Williams's broadly comic tone is deepened with a tough reality. Papa vaguely meanders his car into a minor accident en route to the nearby Florida beach; when he's arrested and flees the scene, it's Leah who drives the car (as he's taught her) and overtakes him. The girls conceal his dog's death to protect him, but Papa's distress at its absence comes to an absurd end when he learns they've buried it by the family well. And Papa's childishly overzealous teasing—he's pretending, all too realistically, to be a werewolf—is nearly recast in horror when a young cousin finds a loaded gun. As it can in real life, a tragedy in the last pages comes as a total shock. With subtler character development, an experienced writer might have made a closer link between the response to this death and what precedes it (cf. Sarah Ellis's A Family Project, 1986, or Peter Hartling's Old John, 1990); still, though the mood change is jolting, Williams deals believably with the bereaved family's healing. A capable first novel that views both boisterous comedy and wrenching loss with a perceptive eye. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >