Dead End in Norvelt *****
by Jack Gantos
Overview: Jack ends up grounded for the summer after messing with his Dad's Vietnam rifle. Life is already pretty boring in the small, dying town of Norvelt. Now, his only escape from the house and boredom is helping an old woman in town write obituaries. He gets mixed up in a lot of adventures that summer with this old lady and his friend who dad is the undertaker.
Positive elements: easy to read, full of history, interesting characters but not as fully developed as I would have liked
Negative elements: The book is not as profound or thought provoking as many Newberry winners I've read. Jack also does "pretend cursing" as the book calls it. He doesn't use real swear words, but he words sound close enough so that you know what swear words he's using.
Conclusion: Reading this book kept reminding me of A Long Way from Chicago. It was another Newberry winner about a brother and sister's many summers in a small town with a crazy grandmother. That story was so funny and engaging that I had a hard time getting into Dead End in Norvelt. I just kept comparing the two books. But maybe if I was a middle school aged boy, I would have enjoyed it more. (Especially the parts about the dead bodies in the morge.)
A side note...the author writes himself as the main character, but I didn't see anything to explain that. Is this a bit autobiographical? I was a bit confused about that.