Friday, January 27, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is the winner of this year's Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction. It's the story of a boy (who happens to be named Jack Gantos; autobiographical stories were apparently all the rage this year), who lives in the small planned community of Norvelt. He's having a rather rough summer -- he's been grounded for various transgressions, and now his mom only lets him out of the house to help an elderly neighbor, Miss Volker. This is more exciting than it sounds: Miss Volker is the town's medical examiner, and she also writes obituaries for the local newspaper. That summer, there are a lot of deaths to examine and a lot of obituaries to write, as the town's founding citizens all seem to be dying off. Is it normal for so many octogenarians to die in one summer? Who's behind the sale of some of the town's houses to a similar community in West Virginia? Will Jack's chronic nosebleeds ever go away -- and will his mom ever let him off of being grounded? Is Norvelt under a curse?

This is a fun read, with a hint of mystery and some bite-sized chunks of history thrown in the mix. Do I like it as much as Okay for Now, the book I had pegged for the Newbery? Not quite -- but I can see its strong points, and it's definitely an enjoyable read.

(Review copy borrowed through my library system.) 

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