The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen

18 Sep

Publisher: Tundra Books
Released: Sept 11th, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy 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. 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.”

From Susin Nielsen’s website.

It’s no secret that I absolutely fell in love with Susin Nielsen’s writing in Word Nerd and that love just grew with Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. Despite the fact that The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is darker and deals with a more serious subject matter than the first two books, I absolutely, positively LOVED IT. I devoured it in one sitting and when I was finished, I just felt like a better person for having read it.

OMG this book broke my heart. Just smashed it to little pieces. But it also made my heart swell with love at places. I wanted to jump through the pages and give Henry a big hug and buy him an ice cream. He was such a sweet, awkward, lovable character that I just wanted to do something to make his pain stop. Nielsen wrote him in such a caring yet straightforward manner that he never felt pathetic or whiny to me. He just seemed like a kid who was going through some serious crap and trying to handle it the best way that he could.

I’m not going to say a whole lot about “IT” except that her telling of what happened, the way she presented it, was just amazing. It’s hard to take a situation like that and write about it in a way that doesn’t come across as sensational or crude. But through Henry, Nielsen explains what happened in a way that was both heartbreaking and understated. Perfection.

As always, there’s a slew of wonderfully weird secondary characters in The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. I loved them all so much that it would be impossible to pick my favorite.  And even thought they were secondary, they each had a huge part in helping Henry to deal with what happened.

I loved this book so much that I could probably go on and on and on about all the wonderful things that sucked me in and made me sad when I got to the last page. But about all, I loved Henry’s voice. Nielsen wrote him so honestly that it hurt my soul at times, to witness how he was feeling and what he was going through.

Henry’s is a tough story to read and I can only imagine how hard it was to write it. But it’s one that really needs to be heard. And honestly, I couldn’t have pictured anyone but Nielsen telling it.

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