four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
55-Nov-Dec-2011
By: 
Jack Gantos
user_rating: 
0

A-Dead End in NorveltJack Gantos, author of the Newbery Honor award–winning Joey Pigza series, returns with a semiautobiographical young adult novel.

The Story: The author, Jack Gantos, makes himself the young protagonist of Dead End in Norvelt. Jack, 11, stuck between two feuding parents who can't seem to agree on anything, makes big plans to go on a long summer vacation. Unfortunately, some misbehavior makes Jack "grounded for life," crushing his dreams of getting away from his parent's constant arguments. In an effort to escape, he volunteers to assist his elderly neighbor with a bizarre task--researching and writing obituaries for the townspeople while sharing important historical information about Norvelt, Pennsylvania. As he delves into his research, he discovers that the town has many hidden secrets, including a long-forgotten murder.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 352 pages. $15.99. ISBN: 9780374379933

BookPage 4 of 5 Stars
"Small-town life has never been funnier than in Jack Gantos' Dead End in Norvelt. ... Sure, this boy's life is over the top, but readers would expect nothing less from Jack Gantos (either one of them)." Angela Leeper

Walking Brain Cells 4 of 5 Stars
"One never quite knows what is going to happen next, what new character will enter the story, or where it will go. It's a rollercoaster of a book, but one that is strong and steady as well. Readers are in wild but good hands here."

Voya 4 of 5 Stars
"Jack is a lover of history, and the book focuses on the Cold War realities of life just before the Cuban Missile Crisis. ... This is a thoughtful, funny, enjoyable read for younger readers, especially boys." Nancy Pierce

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Jack will encounter vats of molten paraffin, suspicious Girls Scout cookies, powdered rat poison and a tattooed corpse, as well as arson, poaching and murder, and he will endure the clandestine cauterizing of inflamed capillaries in his own nose. ... In part by using the obituaries that Jack copies down, the author makes the case that young people ought to know and care about those who have gone before them." Meghan Cox Gurdon

School Library Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"What I did have a small problem with was the fact that though the book is set in the post-WWII era, Jack is one heckuva forward thinking guy. The kind of kid who sides with the Aztecs when he reads about their slaughter at the hands of the Spaniards. ... It's not an easy book, but it does make for a compelling story, in spite of the protagonist's limited movements." Elizabeth Bird

Critical Summary

Dead End in Norvelt, "an intriguing mix of memoir and fiction" (Walking Brain Cells) based, in part, on the author's own experience in a small town, should appeal to many YA readers. Most critics agreed that Gantos continues his trend of producing highly readable and alternately serious and laugh-out-loud funny books. However, the dark humor might be a little too dark for some readers: critics pointed specifically to the young Jack's constant (and copious) nosebleeds as well as the dead bodies that populate the work. Even so, despite the strong stomach required of readers and some missteps here and there, Dead End in Norvelt comes highly recommended. "Get this into the hands of tweens and teens who enjoy humor and a bit of mystery" (Walking Brain Cells).