Thursday, February 2, 2012

review: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

pub date: September 13, 2011
publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
pages: 341
appeals: historical fiction, based on fact, mystery, murder, small town, Newbery Winner
source: library
content: some fart humor, hunting, lots of blood(-y noses)

As you most likely know by now, this book won the Newbery Award this year. I was lucky enough to already have it checked out when the award was announced, so I missed out on the long hold list at the library. Lucky!

I went on a road trip to California last week with my sisters and ten-year-old nephew and we stuck the audio of this book in. My nephew LOVED it. We listened to about half of it on the way there, the rest on the way home. It might have been the potty humor (he is ten and thinks that sort of thing HILARIOUS), but for what ever reason while we were in California, any time we were in the car, even for three minutes, he'd say, "Can you turn the book on now?" It was really cute.

As for me, I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. I'm surprised it won the Newbery (especially when there was Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt which I loved and enjoyed so much more and wanted to win--a lot). It had it's moments of humor, it was peppered with entertaining characters, the plot was exciting at points (meandered at other points) but as I think back on the story, nothing really sticks out.

And as for the audio aspect of this book--kind of blah. The author read it, which is cool. But he has kind of a boring voice. A lot of the funny situations would have been funnier if a more expressive reader had read them instead. Just my opinion.
It was enjoyable. But for me, not phenomenal. For a ten-year-old boy, it will probably pass muster.

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. Dead End in Norvelt is a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Fiction title for 2011. One of Horn Book’s Best Fiction Books of 2011.

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