Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011, 341 pages)
The audiobook of this Newbery Award winner was read by the author (whose voice reminded me a lot of Steve Buscemi) and I thought he did a really good job. Sometimes I’m not a fan when authors read their audiobooks, but in this case I was sold on it. Dead End in Norvelt is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. The book takes place in 1960s Norvelt, PA, a small town founded by Eleanor Roosevelt. Jack is an only child living here with his parents. He’s prone to gushing nosebleeds whenever he’s scared or stressed. He finds himself grounded – for the summer – after accidentally shooting off an old Japanese rifle of his father’s.
While grounded, the only thing Jack is allowed to do (besides chores) is help elderly Ms. Norvelt write the town obituaries. He soon finds that this “job” is actually one of his favorite things to do. Ms. Norvelt is both entertaining and a fountain of knowledge. Not only does she know the town’s history, but she’s also well-versed in other historical events and ties them in to each obituary. The story only grows more interesting when Hell’s Angels and mysterious deaths come into play.
I really liked Dead End in Norvelt and laughed out loud a number of times while listening to it. If you’re looking for a light summer read, this is perfect, especially if you’re into YA. Also, this would be a great read for boys (middle school age?) who might not think they like to read 😉