January 10, 2013

Dark novel is a winner

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
by Susin Nielsen

A terrible family tragedy forces Henry's family to move to a new city. His therapist suggests that he keep a journal. Henry resists at first, but soon starts to confide in it. The reader soon learns the horrifying truth: Jesse, Henry's older brother, shot a student at school and then killed himself. In writing that is by turns ironic, earnest, funny and deeply emotional, Henry tries to come to grips with the aftermath.

Nielsen has become an expert at portraying eccentric characters and difficult situations with humour and pathos. With Henry K. Larsen, she writes movingly of bullying, guns, and the stigma that the shooter's family must endure. Yet she doesn't forget the victim's family and what they're also going through. The story is made more tragic in having Henry be best friends with the victim's sister. After reading her letter to Henry, I had to stop reading so I could wipe away the tears. 

A most deserving winner of the 2012 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is a timely and unforgettable read.

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