The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

243p. Tundra. 2012. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-77049-372-8; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-1-77049-373-5. LC 2011938782.
RedReviewStarGr 6–9—Based on his therapist's recommendation, 13-year-old Henry begins to keep a journal of his experiences as he transitions to life in a new city, a new school, and in a new apartment with his dad. It's been a year since his older brother, unable to bear a bully's relentless torment, took a gun to school and killed the boy and then himself. Subsequently, Henry's mom has had a breakdown and has been in and out of a psych ward. Nielsen slowly reveals the plot, giving out clues as to what actually happened and the aftereffects of such a tragedy, always through the lens of the younger sibling. Farley, Henry's nerdy new friend who shares his family's love of wrestling, and classmate Alberta complement the story as they aggravate Henry and enrich his life, drawing him out of his anger and grief, and help him open up to others and try to find his way. With fully developed adult and child characters and a solid sense of middle school humor, the author has crafted an insightful and nuanced novel about bullying and suicide, and familial love and resilience.—Kathy Lyday, South Caldwell High School, NC

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