Books, Young Adult Fiction

Book Review – Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. A (young) Young Adult book, but a great read, nonetheless!  I probably would have never given this book a second glance, but I was in my Facebook book group last week, and found the lists a friend/fellow bibliophile had posted at the end of last school year of his favorite reads.  This book was on his favorite standalone Young Adult books (great that he labeled the list “standalone” as it seems EVERYONE is writing series now.  Also, this ended up not being a standalone after all, but I am anxious to read the sequel).  Anyway…I was looking for something else, stumbled across the list, and then the next day, just happened to be in the library and saw it on an endcap. Yay!

Jack Gantos is a young boy in 1962 Norvelt, a small and dying town in Pennsylvania.  Norvelt was named for Eleanor Roosevelt, who basically “founded” the town.  She wanted families to have an equal chance at a home, but now 17 years after World War II, the town is dying.  The book starts with Jack (Jackie) being grounded because he accidentally fired his father’s souvenir Japanese rifle.  Jackie ends up getting on his mother’s bad side even more very quickly.  Jackie is a bleeder – a nose bleeder – and this causes a great deal of undue stress on his mother.

When his mother decides he needs to help the neighbor down the street, Jackie is forced to see Norvelt in a different light.  The neighbor is a feisty, elderly lady who is one of the original Norvelt citizens.  She teaches Jackie much in the way of world history and in particular the proud history of their small town.  Things take a somewhat dramatic turn when a motorcycle gang shows up in town.  But even through the drama, Jackie and his neighbor are a funny couple.  The mix between action and laughter leads to a very surprising conclusion.

This book was such a great read.  It won both a Newberry Medal and an O’Dell Award for historical fiction.  So glad I remembered his list when I saw it at the library.  If you are looking for a light read, this is a great one to try.


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