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Book Review: Dead End in Norvelt

March 5, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is the 2012 Newberry Award Winner.

At it’s heart, Dead End in Norvelt is about a colliding of the past and the future.  They battle it out while the Present is grounded in his room for an entire summer.

Norvelt is a New Deal Town named for it’s founder EleaNOR RooseVELT, and in the early 1960s when Jack Gantos is growing up there, Norvelt is on it’s way to quickly becoming a ghost town.

The author boldly names the character after himself insinuating that this story is at least semi- autobiographical, however we can also assume that parts, if not most of it are fictional, which parts are which, Jack Gantos never tells us.  So, feel free to let your imagination go to town.  🙂

Firstly, Jack is a very likable, identifiable character.  He is a typical young boy on the verge of adolescence, simultaneously obsessed with war, blood, guts and battle and on the other extreme, prone to excessive nosebleeds anytime something makes him nervous, anxious, uncomfortable, scared, grossed out… He has upwards of 3-4 nosebleeds a day.  Early on in the story Jack gets himself grounded for the entire summer through no fault of his own.  He spends his summer reading about history and helping one of Norvelt’s oldest original residents write obituaries for the other original residents, who one by one die off over the summer. Meanwhile, Jack’s parents battle it out over the family’s future. His father is in favor of leaving to start over in the greener grass of Florida, while his mother argues for the preservation of the past and staying in Norvelt in the hope that things will once again be as they used to be.

I found this story very intriguing, Jack is the kind of character that makes you laugh out loud one minute and want to hug the next.  Having younger brothers has given me an appreciation for the complexities and lovableness of little boys and Jack Gantos seems to have the same appreciation.  And the Past vs. Future question is something that I think we can all identify with to some extent.

I give this book 4 stars.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Susannah permalink
    March 9, 2012 10:10 am

    Good review! I already feel empathy and interest in the Jack Gantos and I’m curious to know how his summer goes!

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