The Bruxelle family has an intriguing history. Ancestors who might have been witches; a tendency to focus on herbs and other potions; and a general quirkiness that sets them apart from others.

But what takes them totally outside the range of normal is Tate, the seventeen-year-old boy that Jaden has raised on her own, with the help of her brother and mother; the child whose birth mother, Jaden’s sister Brooke, walked away from right after he was born. A child whose head is overly large, with a shunt; a young man who is struggling to find his own version of normalcy despite his issues. A very special and brilliant boy who excels academically, but is desperate to play basketball and be on a team. He just wants to belong.

A drug addict, Brooke has been absent for Tate’s whole life, and now he wants to meet her.

Will allowing Brooke back into Tate’s life ruin his chances at happiness? Can joining the basketball team be a good thing, or will the potential dangers prevent the very thing he wants most?

As Jaden struggles to do what is best for Tate, we get to empathize with her emotions; tune in to her internal monologues as she sorts through the dilemmas; and we feel the joys and sorrows that go along with parenting. While she is parenting, she is also a hospice nurse, with those very special emotional journeys that sometimes seem overwhelming.

At one point, Tate begins a blog and through the connections he has established, begins to see that he is not so alone after all. He has developed a unique brand of humor and insight that shows through and brings many followers to his site.

I liked this realization that Jaden reaches after considerable soul-searching:

“The truth is, Tate would not be Tate without the insight, compassion, and sensitivity that had come to him through his hardship. That’s the gift of not being normal. Let’s face it, you become a deeper person amidst adversity. You become a more perceptive, strong, resilient person when life is not handed to you on a silver platter held by a butler.”

My favorite parts of A Different Kind of Normal were the ways in which Jaden’s family totally wrapped itself around her and Tate, giving them support, cheering them on at every turn, and showing that special brand of uniqueness that comes from being different. Five stars.


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