Dead End in Norvelt
by Jack Gantos (Author)
It’s the best time of the year for young Jack Gantos – the last day of school, nothing could spoil Jack’s glee. Unfortunately, glee soon turns to gloom when Jack’s Mom grounds him, for the whole summer. Jack despairs at his impending boredom, his Mom will only allow him to visit his elderly neighbour, Miss Volker. The reader’s pity for Jack is slowly assuaged as he enters Miss Volker’s world.
This introduction is a major turning point in Jack’s life. Through, Miss Volker Jack delves into a world full of history, imagination and adventure. Despite her disabilities, Miss Volker is the powerhouse of this small town. Unlike her arch enemy, Mr Spizz, Miss Volker doesn’t let life and its disappointments tarnish her view of the world. Norevelt is beautiful, a unique place and it is her life’s work to record its history and invoke pride of place in its inhabitants.
The author peels away the layers of Norevelt, enveloping us in its history, its ways, its landscape but most importantly, its people. Through Miss Volker and Jack, we learn that people aren’t what they seem and no one, no matter what their circumstance, can be described as ordinary. Under Miss Volker’s guidance, Jack discovers that Norevelt is far from a dead end. Like many of us who dismiss our homelands, Jack realises that each settlement has its own unique character and idiosyncrasies.
Although the story courts with heartbreak and struggle, humour is never far away. Jack’s unique view of his world never fails to tickle our funny bone. It’s difficult not to develop a true affection for Jack Gantos. Dead End in Norevelt may have its weaknesses – there are a few loose ends which don’t seem to be satisfactorily resolved but the story does what all stories should – move us.
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