October 13, 2011

Audio Review: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Title: Dead End in Norvelt
Author: Jack Gantos
Read By: Jack Gantos


Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.
My Review
For those of you that don't know Jack Gantos he wrote this fantastic book series titled Joey Pigza about a young book with ADHD.  I loved that series, so when I got this audio book for review I was very excited.  I wasn't sure what to expect because this book is not like Joey Pigza.  The main character is named Jack Gantos, so you're never sure how much of what your reading is real and happened to the real Jack Gantos and how much is made up! 

Ok what did I like?  I loved the character of Jack.  He's an awesome kid that has the best way of phrasing things.  And they way he'd describe his mother's anger was hysterical!  I loved that he read history books, felt caught between what he dad told him to do (cut his mom's corn down!) and what his mom told him to do (behave!).  He wants to be like his mom and love his town and all the people in it, but he gets why his dad doesn't like it.  But what I really like his how he treats the old lady next door.  If all kids treated their "elders" that way, this world would be a much much better place.  Jack Gantos (the author) did an amazing job of bringing this kid to life and really let him become a real live breathing kid.  He gave him this fantastic voice that jumped off the page.  When he said "cheese and crackers" for swearing I giggled every time.  Part of might have been the way Jack Gantos read it.  (yes he read the audio book).  

What else did I like?  The cast of characters! Mr. Spiv who ride his adult tricycle.  Bunny his best friend.  Mr. Hoffmeyer the two mortician.  Loved them all!  I wanted to live in Norvelt after meeting them all.  But I loved Ms. Volker the most.  She was such a feisty old lady.  I loved how she looked at the world and refused to slow down even with hands so full of arthritis she could barely use them.  I wish she was my neighbor.  I really do!

What concerns me?  I'm not sure a lot of kids would "get" the book.  There isn't a strong story.  Much of it feels like a bunch of vignettes tied together. If you've seen the movie A Christmas Story, it reminded me of that a lot.  Great little stories that are strong together, but aren't linked by a strong conflict.  Now there is a connection in the book, but it comes later in the story.  I just don't know if kids would stick around for it, and if they'd get the real point of the novel.

What is the real point?  The idea of remember our history of course! Cheese and crackers if you don't get that!  (read the book to get the reference :)!

For the Boys? Yup for sure! If they like stories with planes, guns and mystery.

Final Thought:  Good book but kinda different
Best stick-with-you image: All his bloody noses!
Best for readers who: Can stick with a book that moves slower
Best for ages: 11+

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