From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013, 288 pages)
From Norvelt to Nowhere is the “sequel” to Gantos’s Newbery Medal winning Dead End in Norvelt (which I loved). Like the first book, I decided to listen to this one as an audiobook. The author narrates and I really enjoyed it last time. This book kind of continues from where the last book left off, but the story line is a slightly more exaggerated. The small town of Norvelt is slowly getting back to normal after almost all the old ladies in town were murdered. Jack decides to dress up as the murderer, Mr. Spizz, for Halloween and one of the houses he trick-or-treats at is that of Mrs. Custard, an elderly woman who recently came back to town. When she answers the door and sees Jack dressed up she comments on how he looks just like someone who had previously stopped by. Then she proceeds to eat a poisoned Thin Mint and die. That’s it, Jack is convinced that Spizz is back and he heads off to Mrs. Volker’s house to let her know what’s up.
Mrs. Volker now makes it her personal mission to find and kill Spizz. When she receives a telegram telling her that Eleanor Roosevelt (the town’s founder) has died she is able to convince Jack’s mom to allow Jack to come with her as her “helper” as she pays her respects to the former First Lady. This is where things get interesting. There’s more to this trip than meets the eye. Mrs. Volker and Jack head all over the eastern United States, trying to figure out how to track down and kill Spizz. Mrs. Volker constantly compares their mission to Moby Dick, she is Mrs. Captain Ahab and Spizz is her white whale. Jack is there to try and keep things under control, but it’s hard given Mrs. Volker’s intense focus. Along the way the reader is exposed to all kinds of historical trivia as the mystery of the elusive Norvelt murderer slowly unravels.
This book was good, but didn’t compare to Dead End in Norvelt. I laughed a few times, but I kind of had to force myself to pay attention since I wasn’t as invested in the story. I still definitely recommend Dead End in Norvelt and would recommend this title to follow up if you enjoy it.