Eighth grade is set to be a good year for Diggy Lawson: He’s chosen a great calf to compete at the Minnesota State Fair, he’ll see a lot of July, the girl he secretly likes at 4-H, and he and his dad Pop have big plans for April Fool’s Day. But everything changes when classmate Wayne Graf’s mother dies, which brings to light the secret that Pop is Wayne’s father, too. Suddenly, Diggy has a half brother, who moves in and messes up his life. Wayne threatens Diggy’s chances at the State Fair, horns in on his girl, and rattles his easy relationship with Pop.What started out great quickly turns into the worst year ever, filled with jealousy, fighting, and several incidents involving cow poop. But as the boys care for their steers, pull pranks, and watch too many B movies, they learn what it means to be brothers and change their concept of family as they slowly steer toward a new kind of normal.Praise for Steering Toward Normal"First-time author Petruck’s account of country life is never dull as she depicts the strong work ethic of cattlemen and women, along with the universal conflicts between siblings."Publishers Weekly"The plot is full of pranks and humorous situations but at its heart, it is a story about navigating the complicated and sometimes unexpected dynamics that come with being part of a family. Petruck captures the setting of rural Minnesota well, creating a small town where it seems like nearly everyone is related or at the very least always knows everyone else’s business."VOYA Magazine"In Petruck’s capable hands, raising a steer—caring for it, loving it, and eventually letting it go—becomes a keen metaphor for the loss of a loved one. Diggy is a perceptive narrator, but not unusually so for his age, and it’s reassuring to see him sort out his tangled feelings."Booklist
About the Author
Rebecca Petruck is a Minnesota girl, though she currently lives in North Carolina, where she earned her MFA in creative writing. A former member of 4-H, she was also a Girl Scout and competed in MATHCOUNTS. She may have pulled a few pranks in her life, though no one can prove she wrapped that entire car in cellophane. This is Rebecca’s first novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“Steering Towards Normal” written in 2014 by Rebecca Petruck demonstrates the universal themes of family and acceptance through the development of two young men learning to grow in a new life together. A little about Rebecca Petruck: she is a Minnesota raised girl, always into 4-H, girl scouts, and always had a heart for the outdoors. She’s holds an MFA in creative writing from UNC Wilmington, and she has become an absolutely fantastic writer over the years. “Steering Towards Normal” is a realistic fiction book directed towards readers interested in adventure, raising livestock, and family complications. Through the 336 pages of content, Diggy, the eighth grader, elaborates on all of his experiences from purchasing his very nice steer named Joker, to eventually accepting Wayne, his friend, into his family, to the Steer Show later that year at the Minnesota Fair. Joker was set to be the Grand Champion this year at the Minnesota State Fair, and everything was going well for Diggy, both physically with the steer and mentally with his 4-H crush, July. One peaceful day, Wayne is dropped on Diggy’s porch by his drunk father. The adventures go on, they are always arguing, yet Pop is trying his hardest to relax things. Come to find out, Wayne is there because his mother died. Pop adjusts things at home, and accepts Wayne to stay there for as long as he needs. As time progresses, Diggy learns that Pop is also Wayne’s dad. That throws controversy all over the place, and events leading from one to another and so on. The amount of detail and confidence Petruck puts into her novel was astonishing. Through the building of the two now called “brothers”, Wayne decides to throw in another twist. He tries to ruin the easy relationship with Pop, and win the Steer Show to show Diggy up and win July over. This story builds with character development, through all chapters, and eventually ends with a lot of pranks, memories, and cow poop! Wayne and Diggy learn what family means, and what it means to be brothers. It takes a while, like all relationships do, but they slowly learned how to steer toward the new kind of normal. My reaction to the book was very connective, considering I do 4-H and show steers. I was really intrigued to learn different life styles of other country folks, and how learning how to accept big changes into lifes. I have been in the same situation, not with a brother but with family members who need to live with us because they no longer have anywhere to call home. Sure does take a lot of patience and acceptance, but is worth it for everyone. I truly believe that through the love and devotion animals have with us, anything is possible; Diggy and Wayne are testaments of this. "Steering Toward Normal" used a few types of literary elements as well. The major one is figurative language. Petruck continuously uses irony to give hints as to what will happen, without directly saying it. For example, in Chapter 9, Diggy states, "Being alone was a big adjustment for the calf". He uses irony in this situation because he is expresses his sorrows for Joker, but not Wayne who was in the same kind of situation; Wayne was left alone on Pop's doorstep. The beginning was kind of laid-back, but eventually actions started happening and I just could not set the book down! It’s a definite must read for anyone and everyone interested in animals, humor, friendship, family, or just an overall heartwarming story. There is nothing quite like an eighth grader who understands what a brother truly means, and being there to help him raise a steer and compete, despite knowing it could put his $13,000 win in jeopardy.