Newbery Review: Dead End in Norvelt

Book Review: Dead End in Norvelt | Newbery and Beyond

This book is the Newbery Medal winner for 2012.  The inside flap of this book starts off by saying, “Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” which is something that took a long time for me to get used to.  It’s written by Jack Gantos about Jack Gantos, and I didn’t like not knowing where the line was between fictional and nonfictional!

The storyline follows Jack’s relationship with Miss Volker, a passionate old woman who takes her duty to the town of Norvelt and Eleanor Roosevelt, the town’s founder, very seriously–she is the medical examiner as well as the writer of the town’s obituaries.  Miss Volker mixes the deceased’s personal history with past history in a fascinating way, and Jack types up the obits for her.  When it seems that the deaths of several old ladies in the town is more than a coincidence, Jack wants to investigate, with Miss Volker’s help.  Jack goes on some silly adventures during his summer vacation, from being grounded all summer for accidentally shooting off a Japanese gun, to trying to stop his nose from bleeding every time he gets scared or upset.

There are many quirky things in this book: Jack’s constantly bleeding nose and the home remedies that are tried to fix it, his mom’s insistence that Norvelt should run on a barter system and Jack’s embarrassment when she offers canned goods instead of money, his dad’s desire to get out of this dead-end town and the airplane runway he builds in the backyard.  Dead End in Norvelt is weird, sometimes funny, but just not my favorite kind of book.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

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