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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
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Dead End in Norvelt (2011)

by Jack Gantos

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This could be subtitled "How I Spent My Summer Vacation". Jack is grounded and only allowed out to help an elderly neighbor write obituaries for their home town newspaper. Jack Gantos does a great job of inserting a lot of history about the town of Norvelt PA and the Eleanor Roosevelt era. The citizens of Norvelt are one-of-a-kind, making his characters memorable and very funny. ( )
  SparklePonies | Mar 24, 2014 |
Such a great story of a kid growing up in the early '60s. Loved all the characters, and I was surprised by how sweet Jack is in the story. I also love that this is semi-autobiographical. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
RGG: Set in the 1960's, although the allusions are minimal, the more significant aspect of the setting is the special community of Norvelt. The boy Jack is likeable and his story is fun, but the plot seems a bit thin. Reading Level: 10-14.
  rgruberexcel | Feb 14, 2014 |
I love these stories of quirky characters in small towns. Jack is helping an elderly neighbor write obituaries, which is a little darker than Richard Peck's wonderful books, but a similar flavor. I thought Jack was very accepting of some very unfair punishment. I was laughing so hard at one point that my husband came it to figure out what was going on. Good for fans of Turn Left at the Cow. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Meh, is about the only reaction I have to this book. From the beginning, the tone of the writing style didn't work for me. I want to use the word "patronizing"; I don't think that's the right word, but something along those lines, basically the feeling of "I'm going to write a book for kids" instead of "I'm going to tell a great story".

I read a blog post by a fellow writer talking about the difference between "situation" and "story". A situation is when something happens to the character, and story is when the character takes action and makes things happen. For the most part, I'd say Dead End in Norvelt is a book of situations, as the boy Jack finds himself put into situations by others and pretty much does as he is told and only does things to provoke the movement of the story once at the beginning and a little bit at the end.

I got seriously bored about halfway through, and almost considered giving up. Things picked up and got more interesting toward the end and the story wrapped up in a fairly satisfactory manner, but I still didn't love it.

All throughout I never felt that sense of risk, you know the cost of the character not talking action or making a bad decision or getting in trouble with his parents. Even when he's grounded, he doesn't seem very upset by it and does little to resist, and really, because he's made friends with the arthritic old lady down the street, things are actually going swimmingly for him. Things happen, quirky and maybe darkly funny things, bunt none of them seem to matter on more than a superficial level.

And even though there are interesting, strange characters, I didn't really care about any of them. I couldn't find anyone to latch onto and love, anyone who I cared whether they lost their home or moved away from this poverty stricken town, or even if they died as some of the old folks did — at which point, the arthritic old lady would have Jack type out the obituary that would be quirky and darkly funny and spin off into a "this day in history" thing, which now that I think about it, really made light of the death as opposed to making it meaningful.

Another strange thing about this book is that the author is Jack Gantos and he grew up in Norvelt and he's writing a story about a young boy named Jack Gantos growing up in a town called Norvelt. It's not clear at all whether this book is in any way autobiographical, or if he just decided to name a character after himself for the hell of it, or what. It would be great if there was an author's note or something to explain it, because I'm curious, but I'm not so driven as to try to sift through google to find out. *sigh*

Anyway, yeah, so, another book down. ( )
  andreablythe | Feb 6, 2014 |
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For Anne and Mabel
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School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.
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But church had a different kind of math.  You could never be sure what anything added up to, which meant that what was in your imagination while sitting in a pew was just as important as what the preacher was saying--maybe even more important. It's like when you read a book and you know that the words are important, but the images blossoming in your imagination are even more important because it's your mind that allows the words to come to life.
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In the historic town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the summer of 1962 grounded for various offenses until he is assigned to help an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, typewriting, and countless bloody noses.… (more)

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