Dead End in Norvelt
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 fiesty 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 launced 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.
But after Jack accidentally shoots a live round from his father's Japanese rifle, he finds himself grounded for the summer. His only escape. . . Writing obituaries of the last original families of Norvelt... But why are they all dying so suddenly? Is it just old age? Or something more sinister? Is the only way out of Norvelt a dead end?
Jack Gantos writes a heartfelt story about what it was like growing up. His words are honest. He questions the adults in his community, he questions his parents, he gets in trouble, then his nose bleeds. He gives an intelligent witty voice to the middle school age boy.
What I like best about Dead End to Norvelt is the humor and mystery Gantos weaves into his story. His characters have depth and you care about all of them; characters you love and characters you love to hate. Meanwhile, he interlaces tiny tidbits of history without being preachy or sounding like a textbook and gives you laugh out loud moments. The story moves quickly and I felt like I was standing right best Jack as he retold all the events that happen that summer.
Based on real life experiences