The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
Flora’s rating: 4/5
Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Length: 243 pages (but it’s not as tall as a standard paperback, so it’s not really that long)
Darker than her previous novels, Susin peoples this novel about the ultimate cost of bullying with a cast of fabulous characters, dark humour, and a lovable, difficult protagonist struggling to come to terms with the horrible crime his brother has committed.
As you can see, this book’s blurb reveals next to nothing about it. I personally dislike when this happens, but it was in a 2 for $10 book deal we were having at work; it was pretty small (I have slight commitment issues with massive books), and it had great reviews on Goodreads, so why not?
I’m afraid my review will be much the same; I’m not a fan of reviews containing spoilers, so like The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, this review will be short.
So, without giving away too much, here’s a basic summary of the novel:
Henry has been tasked with writing in a journal by his therapist, which he reluctantly does (hence the title). Slowly he reveals his present, as well as the past, involving his brother Jesse and “IT”–the incident and resulting aftershocks that changed Henry and his family forever.
Henry’s journal entries are brimming with his emotions–anger, deep sadness, and confusion–as well as his accounts of him desperately trying to keep it together and forge a new life in his new home of Vancouver, where no one knows about “IT.” He never anticipates opening up to anyone–not to his new friends Farley and Alberta, not to his therapist, and especially not to two nosy neighbours. But before long, events at his school and changes in his home life force Henry to talk about the “IT,” with surprising outcomes.
Henry is a fantastic narrator. He is sweet and vulnerable without being whiny or too hard to relate to. His journal is a well-written mix of anger, frustration, sadness, humour, and loss, which is pretty much what one would expect, given his situation.
His grieving process is written and handled adeptly. Henry has moments of anger, fear, regret, and deep sadness, but this is not a book about grief. There are some harsh revelations, but Nielsen never beats around the bush or alludes to things; she just comes out and says what she wants to say. There is no sugar-coating or avoidance, but there is still plenty of humour that makes reading The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen really quite enjoyable.
This was an engaging, emotional, and insightful read. The middle school humour was well-placed, and the result is a worthwhile story strewn with ideas of familial love and resilience in the face of adversity.
Guest post contributed by the blog Book, Line and Thinker. The blog’s author, Flora, regularly reviews books and makes literary posts and comments. Check out more of her reviews and posts on her blog.