Description (from publisher):
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, before the family is awake. 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 to record his thoughts and feelings, 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.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was one of those books that I thought I’d try out on a whim, and I wound up getting sucked in and absolutely loving it. Written as entries in a therapy journal by 13 year old Henry, the pages drip with honesty and humor. Henry’s family has fallen apart since his brother did something utterly heinous a year earlier (you’ll need to read to know what that is), and now his mother is in a psych ward and Henry and his father have relocated to a new area, seeking anonymity. Henry is afraid of what high school can be and wants to avoid being noticed, having witnessed the horrors of bullying through his older brother, but somehow he winds up with some very nerdy, but completely loyal, friends.
Henry goes through many emotions in his journal entries: the pain of missing his brother, anger at what his brother did, loss of his family and mother, hope that he can someday move on, happiness and surprise at finding some unexpectedly great friends at the lowest point in his life. The friends and neighbors conform to some stereotypes of completely dorky people, the kind that Henry wants to avoid: a pocket protector-wearing Chinese foreign student; a chubby, cross-eyed misfit girl; the elderly Indian neighbor who buys everything off the Home Shopping Network; the skanky-dressing middle-aged alcoholic woman who lives upstairs and hits on his dad. But instead of playing up the stereotypes for laughs, Nielsen exposes the humanity and good within each of them, transforming them into charismatic and real characters.
There’s plenty of pain in this book, but underneath everything is a tone of hope. What Henry’s brother did will affect his family forever, but Henry slowly learns how to cope with the tragedy and to recognize that he can get help from his support system. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was unexpectedly touching and fun, and I’m very glad I decided to try reading it.