The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen8:00 AM
Author: Susin Nielsen
Release Date: September 11, 2012 (hardcover)
Publisher: Tundra Books
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Overall: 5 Stars
Thirteen-year-old Henry’s happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father’s hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry’s family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city, where no one knows their past. When Henry’s therapist suggests he keep a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night.
In spite of Henry’s desire to “fly under the radar,” he eventually befriends a number of oddball characters, both at school and in his modest apartment building. And even though they know nothing about his past – at least, not yet – they help him navigate the waters of life after “IT.”
Susin Nielsen has created a fantastic new character in Henry, whose journal entries are infused with humor and provide a riveting read about a family in turmoil.
After completely falling in love with Susin Nielsen's Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom a couple of years ago, I couldn't contain my excitement when I got my hands on her new novel. I wasn't too sure what to make of the rather obscure book cover at first, but the premise immediately reeled me in and I couldn't tear my eyes away from its compelling pages. The cover really does make much more sense once you begin reading the novel, tying into aspects about Henry's life really well...
In the wake of a terrible moment which shatters the Larsen family apart, Henry reluctantly begins to confide his thoughts in a journal his therapist gives him. Henry puts up a good front with his sarcastic remarks, but he's really a lonely boy who's still struggling to come to terms with his older brother's actions and trying to return to some semblance of normality after "IT". The subject matter may be the darkest of Susin Nielsen's novels yet, but there's a refreshing honesty in her storytelling that is also humorous and absolutely heartwarming.
Bullying has affected Henry's life in so many ways, yet even when he feels angry at the world, there's still a certain innocence and charm about this thirteen year-old boy that just makes you smile and also hope he never loses it. With the help of his new school friends, Farley and Alberta, and some well-meaning neighbours at his new home, Henry slowly overcomes his grief and learns to open himself up to others again.
With a quirky cast of characters and a thought-provoking storyline, Susin Nielsen's latest novel is a gem you don't want to miss. If you have ever been bullied in your life, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen will especially strike a chord within your heart. I was completely touched and moved to tears at times, yet smiling like crazy at other moments, a feat I'm not sure how Susin Nielsen manages, but she truly does!
I laughed. I cried. Susin Nielsen's The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is an absolute must-read for everyone.
Thanks so much to Random House Canada for providing this review copy!