A Shot at Normal
by Marisa Reichardt
Published by: Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: February 16th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Marisa Reichardt’s A Shot at Normal is a powerful and timely novel about justice, agency, family, and taking your shot, even when it seems impossible.
Dr. Villapando told me to get a good attorney. He wasn’t serious. But I am. I’m going to sue my parents.
Juniper Jade’s parents are hippies. They didn’t attend the first Woodstock, but they were there for the second one. The Jade family lives an all-organic homeschool lifestyle that means no plastics, no cell phones, and no vaccines. It isn’t exactly normal, but it’s the only thing Juniper has ever known. She doesn’t agree with her parents on everything, but she knows that to be in this family, you’ve got to stick to the rules. That is, until the unthinkable happens.
Juniper contracts the measles and unknowingly passes the disease along, with tragic consequences. She is shell-shocked. Juniper knows she is responsible and feels simultaneously helpless and furious at her parents, and herself.
Now, with the help of Nico, the boy who works at the library and loves movies and may just be more than a friend, Juniper comes to a decision: she is going to get vaccinated. Her parents refuse so Juniper arms herself with a lawyer and prepares for battle. But is waging war for her autonomy worth losing her family? How much is Juniper willing to risk for a shot at normal?
I skate for at least an hour to clear my head, then arrive at the urgent care clinic at five o’clock. The sign on the door tells me they’re open for another few hours. That should be enough time. I pull the bottom of my shirt up to wipe the sweat from my forehead and go to the front desk, not exactly sure what to do. My insurance card is in my mom’s wallet. And I don’t have any money.
The door to the hallway where the nurse took my vitals a few weeks ago is over my left shoulder, but the L- shaped check- in counter has one half in the waiting room and one half in the hallway. I can see the shut doors of exam rooms inside the hallway, which means those rooms are full and I might have to wait a while.
“I need to talk to someone,” I say.
A guy looks up from his computer and pushes the clipboard on the counter toward me. “Sign-i n sheet’s right there.”
“Can I get shots here?”
“A flu shot?”
“Shots. Plural. All of them.”
He squints at me. “What do you mean? Are you traveling out of the country?”
“Nope. But I’ve never had any vaccinations, and I want all of them. How do I do that?” He looks at me like I’m kidding. “I’m serious.”
He finally pulls away from his keyboard and really looks at me. “Are you eighteen?”
“Do you have a parent or guardian here with you?”
“They’ll say no. I need to take care of this by myself.” He puts his elbows up on the desk. Leans forward. “No vaccinations ever? MMR? Tetanus? Chicken pox?”
“None of them.”
He leans back in his chair, hands behind his head like a cradle. “Wow.”
I’m a freak. An anomaly to someone in the medical field.
Coming up on the right, Juniper Jade, nocturnal and not vaccinated. Don’t feed the bears. Don’t vaccinate the children.
About the author:
Marisa Reichardt is the critically acclaimed author of the YA novels UNDERWATER, AFTERSHOCKS (2020), and A SHOT AT NORMAL (2021). She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual degrees in English & American Literature and Creative Writing from UC San Diego. Before becoming a published author, Marisa worked in academic publications, tutored high school students in writing, and shucked oysters. These days, you can probably find her huddled over her laptop in a coffeehouse or swimming in the ocean.