Review: Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn

Title: Twelve Steps to Normal
Author: Farrah Penn
Publisher: jimmy patterson
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 384 Pages
Published March 2018

Summary: Kira's Twelve Steps To A Normal Life: 1. Accept Grams is gone. 2. Learn to forgive Dad. 3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend...And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent's an alcoholic, there's no such thing as "normal."
When Kira's father enters rehab, she's forced to leave everything behind--her home, her best friends, her boyfriend...everything she loves. Now her father's sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal...exactly as it was before she was sent away. But is that what Kira really wants?

This review was originally published on

I received an ARC of Twelve Steps to Normal in exchange for an honest review, and I'm so glad that I did! This book kept me hooked from start to finish and it was a great emotional ride.

This book is equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching. The story follows Kira, who had been sent off to live with her aunt in Portland while her single, alcoholic father was put in rehab after a few dangerous, crazy stunts. But the book begins when Kira's father is finally sober and she finds herself coming home --- but what she's met with when she gets there isn't what she expected. Not only are her friends acting weird and distant (and one even stole her boyfriend!), but her father invited several other members of the rehab facility to live in their home as everyone got back on their feet. And if that wasn't reason enough for Kira to be unhappy, she also had to keep her social worker from finding out, or she'd be sent back to Portland all over again. So Kira creates twelve rehabilitation steps of her own, but rather than being about overcoming alcoholism, these steps are about getting her old life back on track. The only question is, will she succeed? And once she starts the process, Kira will battle an even more important question --- is her old life something she even wants back in the first place?

I really enjoyed reading this book! It was interesting to see Kira navigate the tricky relationships both with her old friends, her new guests and even her father. While I certainly didn't blame her for being incredibly frustrated, my heart also went out to the guests (Peach, Nonnie and Saylor), because they were just trying to get their lives on track and they were nothing but nice to Kira throughout everything. They were certainly a unique bunch that I enjoyed watching interact together --- they definitely formed their own little family dynamic. So watching her relationship struggle but then eventually develop with them made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I was also hooked onto all of Kira's high school drama and seeing how her old life wasn't as easy to get back as she hoped. She had to navigate lots of twists and turns and awkwardness that she hadn't been expecting, and each of those challenges led to some new things --- such as new friendships, new potential relationships and even discovering some new things about her own self. 

My favorite character in this book was definitely Alex. He was the perfect boy-next-door kind of crush --- sweet, gentle, talented, kind, funny and always there for Kira, even when she wasn't noticing it. Every time he appeared throughout the book, my heart warmed up and I felt all warm and fuzzy. (I've noticed that this book gave me that feeling lots of times!) He was always just so willing to be there for Kira, no matter how awful she may have treated him in the past and yes, sometimes even in the present. He definitely seemed like the kind of person that I would be interested in being friends with --- loyal and creative no matter what. Seeing Kira slowly start to appreciate that was really rewarding for me as a reader.

The only thing I wasn't super crazy about with this book was the fact that the ending felt a little bit rushed. I feel like a majority of the book was leading up to those big moments when Kira would come clean about everything and apologize to everyone, and felt like it was completely glossed over and only briefly alluded to. So it definitely left me feeling a little bit cheated. But not entirely cheated, I suppose, since I did find out how all of that went --- even if I didn't get to necessarily experience those scenes myself.

(Major spoilers in this paragraph so please skip to the next paragraph if you don't want this book spoiled for you!) I was absolutely shocked when Nonnie died --- the entire stroke scenario seemed to come a little bit out of nowhere. And yes, I will admit that it totally made me cry. But I still wasn't expecting it! Wasn't she totally healthy!? ....Gah, Farrah, look what you've done!!! I got through almost this entire book without any tears shed and then you attacked me like this in the last handful of pages. That was a super sneaky plot twist that I really, honestly didn't see coming --- which is why I will (begrudgingly) admit that it was so well done. (But I still am sad that I had to be sad! :( )

Overall, I really enjoyed Twelve Steps to Normal. It's an incredibly raw, emotional story about piecing together a broken past while also trying to mold a better future, and navigating all of those rocky moments in between. If you're looking for a read that will draw you in quickly, keep you hooked and is packed with plenty of emotion, this is definitely the book for you!


  1. Yeah! I knew this one would be good when I put it on my anticipated debuts list. I like when authors balance the happy with the sad. I need that in the book I am reading. Great review!

  2. I’m glad you mostly enjoyed this one! It sounds like such an interesting and frustrating living condition for Kira. So jolting and a huge change. I don’t like rushed endings a lot either. I think the premise is really interesting too.


We want to hear what YOU have to say! Go ahead and share your thoughts and opinions below. :-) (We promise we don't bite!)