Title: Twelve Steps to Normal
Author: Farrah Penn
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson (Hachette)
Time taken to read: 5 weeks and 5 days
Goodreads synopsis: James Patterson presents this emotionally resonant novel that shows that while some broken things can’t be put back exactly the way they were, they can be repaired and made even stronger. Kira’s Twelve Steps To A Normal Life: 1. Accept Grams is gone. 2. Learn to forgive Dad. 3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend… And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent’s an alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “normal.” When Kira’s father enters rehab, she’s forced to leave everything behind–her home, her best friends, her boyfriend…everything she loves. Now her father’s sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal…exactly as it was before she was sent away. But is that what Kira really wants?
This is one of those classic books where the only problem is, “Too many people like me.” I tried so hard to feel bad for Kira. I really did. But she’s upset that her dad loves her. She’s upset that her dad’s friends like her. She’s upset that her aunt and her social worker care about her well-being. She’s upset that her friends like her and want to be there for her, and she’s upset that not one but TWO boys like her. I get that she’s a teenager, but this is a ridiculous way to act. And the funny thing is, it seems like Kira knows that. Because she says on, like, every other page, that the way she’s acting is “horrible” or some other synonym of the word (but mostly “horrible”). So I’m confused.
And speaking of all these characters who like Kira even though she’s “horrible”…every single one of them was incredibly 2-dimensional. Lin, the Earth Club nerd. Raegan, the overachieving class president. Alex, the theatre kid, and Jay, the jock. And her dad’s friends, Peach, Saylor, and Nonnie–three collections of the strangest qualities the author could come up with. And Kira, who is simply not interesting.
One thing that really bothered me in particular is the scene near the end when Kira picks up a bottle of vodka herself. She does this because of the death of one of her dad’s friends, whom she hated probably a month prior to her death. It’s just hard to buy the idea that that would have that kind of impact on her. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, she should be sad. But to drink your alcoholic father’s hidden alcohol…that’s a big deal. And the author brushed over all of that as if it was pretty much insignificant.
Another thing that bothered me was the lack of development of Kira’s relationship with her father. I thought that was going to be the main focus of the story, but it ended up being more about Kira’s boy drama. And boy drama can be interesting, but it’s not why I picked up this book. I get that the author wanted to show recovery in a more positive light, but it didn’t work for me.