I must have fallen asleep because I was dreaming of Pizarro’s crazed men melting down the golden statues of people into a big pot like when you melt a plastic army man over a burner on the stove when your mother isn’t looking (p 18).
I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard while reading a book since Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero by Maureen Fergus. Dead End in Norvelt follows a young Jack Gantos as he suffers through the summer of 1962 grounded. His only respite comes when a member of Norvelt’s original inhabitants kicks the bucket. Then Jack reports to Miss Volker, an elderly woman charged by Eleanor Roosevelt with keeping health records on the original 250 Norvelt families. Miss Volker’s arthritis requires Jack to type for her. Together, the pair visits the deceased then writes the obituary (or a final health report).
Jack, a history buff, learns about the town and its origins as an increasing number of its elderly pass on. Meanwhile, Jack attempts to navigate the minefield that is his parent’s relationship. His father, a WWII vet, wants to leave the dying town while his his mother refuses to budge. Poor Jack is often caught in the middle of their differing desires, wanting to please his father but in personality, more like his mother. And all these deaths point to foul play!
Brilliantly written, hilarious, and efficient. Okay for Now has some competition for the top spot in my heart this year. Is it odd that both feature a boy in T-shirt and jeans with head hidden on the cover? Both are written by men and feature a male character in the 1960s? But for all their similarities, these books are distinctly different and differently brilliant.
I’m so glad I picked this up at BEA!
Advance Reader’s Edition | September 13, 2011 | Farrar Straus Giroux |352 pages | ISBN: 978-0-374-37993-3 | $15.99