57 pages 1 hour read

Sharon Creech

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1990

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Important Quotes

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“I wish someone would tell me exactly what a journal is. I asked my mother and she just said, ‘Well, it’s like a diary only different.’ […] She was going to explain more, but Mrs. Furtz (the lady who just moved in across the street) called to say that my brother Dennis was throwing eggs at her house, and my mother went berserk so she didn’t finish telling me. How am I supposed to write a journal if I don’t know what one is?”

(Chapter 1, Page 1)

This first journal entry reveals Mary Lou’s anxious, eager-to-please character as she dreads getting the assignment wrong. Her mother’s inability to answer the question—both because she does not exactly know how to define a journal and because she is distracted by the more urgent task of chasing after Mary Lou’s troublemaking brother—indicates that Mary Lou will have to figure out the assignment for herself. Mary Lou’s ability to figure things out for herself, rather than defer to authority, is a key theme of the novel.

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“But the party was the stupidest (I know there is no such word as stupidest) thing I have ever seen, with the girls all giggling in the middle of the room, and the boys all leaning against the walls, and then they put on the records and started dancing, just the girls with girls, until finally a slow song came on and some of the boys danced slow with some of the girls just to hang all over their necks and look cool but no one asked me to dance, so I had to stand by the food and pretend to be hungry as anything.”

(Chapter 2, Page 4)

Mary Lou casts a cold eye on the cool kids’ parties, which she believes to be a pointless exercise in flirtation that merits the superlative “stupidest.” Conveying the happenings of the party in a single sentence indicates that Mary Lou is an observer rather than a participant, who watches the action unspool before her. This is confirmed when she reveals the reason that she is left out: no one asks her to dance. The pretense at this party—which involves everyone pretending to look cool and her pretending to be hungry—disturbs Mary Lou and causes her to feel defensive.