Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos

School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it. 

Well, apparently a lot of people liked this book, because it won the Newbery Medal. Personally, I didn't think it was THAT great and it certainly didn't deserve a prestigious award like the Newbery. Not at all. There are way better books that could have won it. But anyway, here's what the jacket said about the story: Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air. I didn't find it all that funny; nosebleeds and dead bodies aren't exactly my idea of hilarious. 

I think this was mostly fiction, though some of it may be based on Jack Ganto's real childhood. I find it highly unrealistic, however, that Jack's parents could be so mean to him throughout the book. Especially his mom. And then the next day, they would turn around and be really kind and totally spoil him. It seems like books about a kid in a small town in the 1960s with a strange mystery/adventure involving weird clues always win the Newbery Award. Moon Over Manifest, a Newbery winner, which I loved by the way, is very similar to this book, except the protagonist is a girl. And the book is much better. I just didn't like the characters all that much in the book. And the history lessons thrown in were weird. Interesting, but weird. They didn't quite fit in.

Read Dead End in Norvelt:
  • if you like Jack Gantos
  • if you like historical fiction set in the 1960s
  • if you're reading Newbery winners
341 pages.

Okay book, but it left me wanting more!

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