Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen

Nielsen has written several teen novels which all have received good reviews.  In this story, Henry's older brother has committed the ultimate crime and left his parents' and Henry's lives in shambles.
Since the story of the crime comes out slowly, I think that's the way the reader needs to get it so I won't reveal the details.  Suffice that Henry has been eating for comfort and gained lots of weight.  Mom is in counseling in a different city.Henry and his father moved away and tried to start new lives where no one would know them, judge them but they cannot  escape the impact on their lives.  Henry is in therapy which does not always go well.  Dad drinks and works.  There is an odd group of geeky kids at school that sort of adopt Henry when they discover he can be an asset to their "brain bowl" team.  Even when he tries to avoid them, they are there.  Gradually he really becomes friends with them.  At a regional meet he sees students from his past, that he is trying to both hide from and forget.  This threatens to ruin everything for him.  Instead, things turn out differently, not perfectly but differently.  Henry and the most annoying kid on his team get together to earn money by recycling to take Henry, Farley,  Henry's parents to a pro wrestling meet in nearby Seattle.  There is a bully who over hears the pair and ultimately beats up Farley and steals the money.  This is the point where Henry can no more run from his problems.  Dad mean time has found someone to talk with and is doing better, though Henry disapproves since she is a pretty female and Henry wants his parents together.  Henry fears this woman will cause the marriage to break up.  In fact it really just helps everyone.  Mom is the slowest to come around, after a mental breakdown and we know the least about her.  There are a lot of funny scenes in the story that help lighten the mood of this serious book on friendship, mental illness, the effects of bullying and more.  Some books I feel beaten over the head with the lessons.  Not so here.  Its an enjoyable read.

No comments: