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THE LAST EXIT TO NORMAL by Michael Harmon

THE LAST EXIT TO NORMAL

By Michael Harmon

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 11th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-375-84098-2
Publisher: Knopf

Spiky-haired skater Ben Campbell moves with his gay dads to rural Montana, where he finds animal carcasses, trucks, a cute farm girl and a troubled kid next door. Readers will love watching this hilarious teen grapple with his new digs, delinquent tendencies and irrepressible sarcasm. Miss Mae, Ben’s grisly Grandma, serves as a fantastic, country-fried foil to Ben’s snarky cynicism. Quick, unfiltered dialogue generates great moments of witty banter, but also captures darker explosions of rage between father and son. Ben still resents his dad’s decision to honor his sexuality and come out, even if it meant dismantling their family. Fortunately, this is not an evil stepfather story. Harmon constructs a much more interesting scenario, in which Ben actually likes his father’s partner, Edward. Teen readers will realize that anger isn’t usually rational and identify with Ben’s lingering frustration. They will also realize that Ben is a benevolent guy—one who rescues a man from under a tractor and tries to save a boy from an abusive home. Predictably, Ben comes to like Montana, but this story takes funny twists and poignant turns through the backwoods. (Fiction. YA)