The New Normal Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The New Normal

Tamar struggles to overcome the tragic deaths of her twin sisters, in the process helping her family to move on in life and dealing with the sudden loss of all her hair from the stress of the horrible event. Tamar is a spunky teenage girl who is a bit of a loner compared to her popular twin sisters. Tamar's twin sisters died in a car accident due to riding in cars with drunken boys who were playing chicken. Since their deaths, Tamar's parents haven't been the same and Tamar herself lost all her hair. The doctors think her hair loss is not because of cancer but because of stress over her sisters' deaths, but she doesn't think so. Tamar thinks her sisters are delinquents and people like her sisters live fast and hard lives and are bound to kill themselves in a stupid way. She is angry that her sisters left their family in shambles due to their irresponsible lives. Tamar's friend, Roy, decides to take her to see his Uncle Lung who is an acupuncturist and might be able to give her a second opinion on why she's losing such an unusual amount of hair. Roy's Uncle gives her free acupuncture treatment. On the way home after the treatment, Tamar is accosted by a fellow who looks like he's part of a gang. The guy claims that her sisters owe him a thousand dollars and even though they're dead, he expects her family to pay up.
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Meanwhile, Tamar continues to lose pretty much all her hair. She tries to borrow money from her parents to pay back the gangster on the pretense that she needs the money to purchase a wig but her parents can't afford to lend her the money. She ends up giving the gangster one of her sister's expensive electric guitars. After that incident, Tamar convinces her parents to help her purchase a decent wig as by this time every single bit of her hair including her eyelashes have fallen off. With her new wig, Tamar feels confident enough to rejoin normal society and she tries to apply for a job. After a brief stunt at a pie shop, she finally gets a job at a fast food restaurant. She also gets a part as Auntie Em in the school theater production of the Wizard of Oz.

As the months pass, Tamar sometimes thinks of her sisters. Even though she was angry at them for getting themselves killed, she also remembers all the good times she had with them and how they were very supportive of her in their own way. She finds herself regretting that she didn't show her sisters that she cared when they were alive and now it is too late. Meanwhile, her father falls down the ladder and breaks his leg, making everyone worried about whether he can get back to work. Roy also starts to make the moves on Tamar and Tamar feels uncomfortable as she thought they were strictly friends. Finally, Tamar's mom also decides to participate in a six week yoga retreat workshop in British Columbia. Tamar can't believe her mom is leaving now, when her dad has just had an accident. Her mom insists she needs it to get a fresh perspective and to properly overcome her grief.

In the girl's change room one day, Tamar gets into a confrontation with another girl named Beth who also happens to have the lead role of Dorothy in the school play. Beth reveals that she likes Roy and she and her friends try to bully Tamar but Tamar decides to fight back. During the ensuing altercation, Beth pulls off Tamar's wig and everyone finds out that she's bald. To make things worse, Tamar is suspended and forced to apologize for punching Beth.

Since she's not going to be at school, she decides to work extra shifts at the fast food restaurant. Things seem to be going well, but then her boss starts behaving inappropriately around her massaging her shoulders and getting uncomfortably close to her. Later on, she finds out that she's fired from her first job and she's both upset at how much of failure she is but also glad that she doesn't have to work under a perverted boss. She imagines the snarky comments her sisters would have said about her job and her boss and this cheers her up.

When Tamara finally goes back to school, everyone seems to look at her with new respect since no one liked Beth. A popular guy at school named Eric asks Tamara to go with him to the prom and she agrees. Later on, Roy also asks her but it's too late and Tamara is both disappointed and frustrated but she is also excited for her prom. She decides to go without wearing her wig and make a bold fashion statement. She imagines her sisters would approve. On the night of the prom, however, she gets stood up by her date. She tries not to feel hurt and her father does his best to cheer her up.

At school, Tamar confronts Eric but Eric doesn't seem to care that he stood her up. Meanwhile, Tamar gets a job at a gas station. Later, Roy tells her that he has been accepted to the University of British Columbia's engineering program. He ends up kissing her and Tamar admits that maybe she does like him that way. The next day, Tamar is excited because her mom is due back from her trip but they find out that her mom was kicked in the head by a cow and has been hospitalized. Tamar asks Roy to help drive her and her father over to British Columbia to pick her up. During the car ride, Tamar and Roy become closer and eventually, Tamar becomes Roy's official girlfriend. They pick up Tamar's mom and drive back to Calgary.

One day, while Tamar is at work, someone tries to rob the gas station and levels a gun at her face. Tamar ends up quitting her job because she was so frightened of it happening again. The story ends with Tamar about to go on stage for the production of Wizard of Oz and feeling loved by her family and boyfriend.
Best part of story, including ending: I specifically loved the interaction between Tamar and her dad - especially the moments when they were trying to awkwardly help each other overcome the death of the twins by watching Star Trek and being geeks together. The scenes were funny and sweet and it was a nice father-daughter relationship.

Best scene in story: One of my favorite scenes was when Tamar was locked up in a deep freezer closet during her first day at work in the pie shop. Tamar's boss is old and kind of deaf so he didn't notice her shouting and pounding on the door. She ends up having to eat frozen cookie dough and wait for the old guy to come and open the freezer on his own. When he does finally discover her, he ends up firing her because she didn't do any work all day. I thought the scene was very humorously written.

Opinion about the main character: I was specifically amused by the character of Tamar and how she handled the challenges life dealt her. She was witty, fun and quirky and made the story entertaining to read.

The review of this Book prepared by Sharon C. a Level 12 Black-Throated Green Warbler scholar

Chapter Analysis of The New Normal

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   humorous Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Coping with loss of loved one(s)    -   Yes Loss of...    -   brother/sisters

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Canadian (Aboot!)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () Prairie?    -   Yes City?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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