Chasing Normal by Lisa Papademetriou is a nice middle grade novel I enjoyed reading. Mieka is growing up in Boston with her father, an artist. When his mother who he is estranged from has a heart attack in Houston, the two travel to see her, staying with Mieka's aunt and her family. Mieka can't get over how different things are in Houston than in Boston. The weather in Houston is so hot and muggy for one thing, and they spend all their time trying to avoid going outside. It isn't just the weather that is different, though. Mieka's Nana (her mother's mother) lives in Boston and runs a consignment shop. Mieka is close to Nana and misses talking with her a lot. She is also struck by how un-normal her family is compared to her aunt's. At first Mieka thinks her aunt and cousins have a perfect life - beautiful home, beautiful clothes....it is only after Mieka and her father sit down and talk that she realizes that even her aunt and her family have their struggles....maybe there is no "normal." Mieka's grandmother in Houston is the opposite of Nana. She is mean and judgemental and seems to enjoy hurting everyone's feelings. Mieka has to come up with a way to deal with Grandma and all her insults. In addition to all of this, Mieka's cousin, Greta, who is the same age, is a hard person to measure up to. Greta appears perfect- great clothes and great hair, definitely in the popular crowd - which is something Mieka isn't a part of in her own school. Greta is nice to Mieka and tries to include her in her own social circle, even though they do go through their own rocky patches.
Papademetriou does a good job of creating a realistic character who is going through some struggles while trying to mature. Mieka is so believable and likeable - everybody can relate to her; she shows readers what it is like to make mistakes and grow up.