57 pages 1 hour read

Sharon Creech

Absolutely Normal Chaos

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1990

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Themes

Two Different Styles of Growing Up

At the beginning of the novel, Mary Lou believes she is behind her peers because she prefers tree-climbing to parties and has not started to date boys. Her older sister Maggie, her best friend Beth Ann, and the popular girl Christy all consider romance and popularity with peers as metrics of growing up. As much as Mary Lou may like Alex, she is reluctant to enter an existence of obsession with appearances and moping over boys. She views the kind of parties where girls preen and dance to show off to boys as “the stupidest” and looks down on Beth Ann when she starts getting ready for a date three hours in advance. Still, while she uses her journal to write entertaining sketches and mimic the ridiculous lengths taken by her peers to impress boys, she cannot help feeling lonely and left out by them. While she and Beth Ann used to have a relationship based on sharing everything, when Beth Ann starts dating, she leaves Mary Lou at a loose end, sharing less information and time with her. When Mary Lou’s life becomes more interesting with the entrance of Carl Ray and Alex, she can see herself entering into competition with Beth Ann as she uses the two boys as leverage for proving that she is growing up.

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