Reviews for Dead End in Norvelt


Booklist Reviews 2011 August #1
"Looks like a bummer of a summer for 11-year-old Jack (with a same-name protagonist, it's tempting to assume that at least some of this novel comes from the author's life). After discharging his father's WWII-souvenir Japanese rifle and cutting down his mom's fledgling cornfield, he gets grounded for the rest of his life or the rest of the summer of 1962, whichever comes first. Jack gets brief reprieves to help an old neighbor write obituaries for the falling-like-flies original residents of Norvelt, a dwindling coal-mining town. Jack makes a tremendously entertaining tour guide and foil for the town's eccentric citizens, and his warmhearted but lightly antagonistic relationship with his folks makes for some memorable one-upmanship. Gantos, as always, deliver bushels of food for thought and plenty of outright guffaws, though the story gets stuck in neutral for much of the midsection. When things pick up again near the end of the summer, surprise twists and even a quick-dissolve murder mystery arrive to pay off patient readers. Those with a nose for history will be especially pleased." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
In 1962 Norvelt, Pennsylvania (a town founded by Eleanor Roosevelt), Jack's summer job keeps him busy. Jack's work--typing up obituaries for his arthritic neighbor--chronicles the history of the community: a "museum of freaks." There's more than laugh-out-loud gothic comedy here. This is a richly layered semi-autobiographical tale, an ode to a time and place, to history and the power of reading. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #5
Who but Jack Gantos would get a summer job typing up obituaries for his arthritic neighbor, the town's unofficial historian; have a best friend who "grew up in a house full of dead people"; and need to nurse a tender nose that sprays blood like "dragon flames"? And since "Death is not a lazy fellow" in 1962 Norvelt, Pennsylvania, Jack's summer job keeps him busy. The elderly citizens of this town founded by Eleanor Roosevelt are dropping like flies, and Jack's obituaries chronicle the history of the community, which Jack says could be a "museum of freaks." Miss Volker cooks her arthritic hands in hot wax, old Mr. Spizz rides through town on a giant tricycle, Bob Fenton looks like "a human corn grub with crusty wire rimmed glasses over his bugged-out snow globe eyes," and Jack's own father is building a bomb shelter and landing strip in the cornfield. But there's more than laugh-out-loud gothic comedy here. This is a richly layered semi-autobiographical tale, an ode to a time and place, to history and the power of reading. And after a summer spent reading Landmark biographies and learning from Miss Volker (a kindred spirit of Richard Peck's Grandma Dowdel), Jack has changed. He realizes he can learn from history; he doesn't have to keep doing "stupid stuff." Readers will see in this story the wellspring of Gantos's earlier characters Joey Pigza and Jack Henry, but readers of Hole in My Life (rev. 5/02) will know that history does have a way of repeating itself, and doing stupid stuff is not just for the young. dean schneider Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #2

An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named "Jack Gantos."

The gore is all Jack's, which to his continuing embarrassment "would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames" whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly, as even though Jack's feuding parents unite to ground him for the summer after several mishaps, he does get out. He mixes with the undertaker's daughter, a band of Hell's Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the "hired hands" that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for the local paper as elderly town residents suddenly begin passing on in rapid succession. Eventually the unusual body count draws the—justified, as it turns out—attention of the police. Ultimately, the obits and the many Landmark Books that Jack reads (this is 1962) in his hours of confinement all combine in his head to broaden his perspective about both history in general and the slow decline his own town is experiencing. Nearly all of Gantos' work is loosely autobiographical—here a closing album of family and town photographs adds unusual, if wobbly, verisimilitude.

Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #2

An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named "Jack Gantos."

The gore is all Jack's, which to his continuing embarrassment "would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames" whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly, as even though Jack's feuding parents unite to ground him for the summer after several mishaps, he does get out. He mixes with the undertaker's daughter, a band of Hell's Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the "hired hands" that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for the local paper as elderly town residents suddenly begin passing on in rapid succession. Eventually the unusual body count draws the—justified, as it turns out—attention of the police. Ultimately, the obits and the many Landmark Books that Jack reads (this is 1962) in his hours of confinement all combine in his head to broaden his perspective about both history in general and the slow decline his own town is experiencing.

Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal BookSmack
As a young teen, I was plagued by nosebleeds, so I had much sympathy for Jackie Gantos, the 12-year-old protagonist of this "entirely true" and "wildly fictional" story, set in 1962. Jackie's nose starts to gush if he so much as thinks a bad thought. Grounded for the summer, he reluctantly goes to work for Miss Volker, the town's arthritic medical examiner (cum-historian, cum-obituary writer), who has need of his typing skills. The remaining original residents of Norvelt (a real cooperative community created in the Great Depression as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act) are dying with some regularity, and Miss Volker wants to tell their stories. The project takes an unexpected turn when she convinces Jackie to dress as the Grim Reaper to check on the status of one elderly neighbor. Adult readers will appreciate Gantos's deadly (pun intended) comic timing. The hilarity works to a deeper purpose, honoring the history of this small town and its residents. Through his friendship with Miss Volker-and his habitual reading of Landmark Books-Jackie learns that history's real benefit is give us the opportunity to not make the same mistake twice. - "35 Going on 13" Booksmack! 9/15/11 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #4

A bit of autobiography works its way into all of Gantos's work, but he one-ups himself in this wildly entertaining meld of truth and fiction by naming the main character... Jackie Gantos. Like the author, Jackie lives for a time in Norvelt, a real Pennsylvania town created during the Great Depression and based on the socialist idea of community farming. Presumably (hopefully?) the truth mostly ends there, because Jackie's summer of 1962 begins badly: plagued by frequent and explosive nosebleeds, Jackie is assigned to take dictation for the arthritic obituary writer, Miss Volker, and kept alarmingly busy by elderly residents dying in rapid succession. Then the Hells Angels roll in. Gore is a Gantos hallmark but the squeamish are forewarned that Jackie spends much of the book with blood pouring down his face and has a run-in with home cauterization. Gradually, Jackie learns to face death and his fears straight on while absorbing Miss Volker's theories about the importance of knowing history. "The reason you remind yourself of the stupid stuff you've done in the past is so you don't do it again." Memorable in every way. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 September

Gr 5-8--In 1962, Jack accidentally discharges his father's war relic, a Japanese rifle, and is grounded for the summer. When a neighbor's arthritic hands get the best of her, his mother lifts the restriction and volunteers the 12-year-old to be the woman's scribe, writing obituaries for the local newspaper. Business is brisk for Miss Volker, who doubles as town coroner, and Norvelt's elderly females seem to be dropping like flies. Prone to nosebleeds at the least bit of excitement (until Miss Volker cauterizes his nose with old veterinarian equipment), Jack is a hapless and endearing narrator. It is a madcap romp, with the boy at the wheel of Miss Volker's car as they try to figure out if a Hell's Angel motorcyclist has put a curse on the town, or who might have laced Mertie-Jo's Girl Scout cookies with rat poison. The gutsy Miss Volker and her relentless but rebuffed suitor, Mr. Spizz, are comedic characters central to the zany, episodic plot, which contains unsubtle descriptions of mortuary science. Each quirky obituary is infused with a bit of Norvelt's history, providing insightful postwar facts focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt's role in founding the town on principles of sustainable farming and land ownership for the poor. Jack's absorption with history of any kind makes for refreshing asides about John F. Kennedy's rescue of PT-109 during World War II, King Richard II, Francisco Pizarro's conquest of Peru, and more. A fast-paced and witty read.--Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

[Page 154]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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