The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen Hardcover – Sep 11 2012
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Winner - Governor General's Award - Children's Literature (2012)
FINALIST, BC Book Prizes’ Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize
“The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen is an engaging grief story. Thought-provoking and relevant, it addresses the effects of bullying in a realistic, compelling and compassionate way, exemplifying the adage ‘There are two sides to every story.’ Henry’s journey is moving and weirdly, wildly funny.”
—Jury’s Citation, Governor General’s Literary Award in Children’s Text
“…Words and writing are often a salvation in Nielsen’s YA fiction. Henry is forced to keep a journal by his therapist; he is at first reluctant, then obsessive about it. A born diarist, he exhibits the idiosyncratic voice of a memoirist, one keenly interested in documenting both his inner and outer worlds. He captures both with humour and heart…. Yet the novel is a dramedy, and believably balances lightness and darkness. It is a shame when the reader must put down the journal and say goodbye to Henry.”
—The National Post
“…A realistic, poignant portrait of one teen who overcomes nearly unbearable feelings of grief and guilt.”
“Nielsen treats a heavy subject with a light, optimistic touch, and while Henry’s passion and distress are evident, his wacky commitment to ‘Saturday Night Smash-up’ and his own ironic, yet earnest, perspective leavens the serious subject matter.”
—The Toronto Star
“…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.”
Beautiful and thought provoking The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is filled with lessons, heartache, pain, anger, family and friendship. Wonderfully done….”
“…a highly emotional story about a family that blames one another, and themselves, for an unimaginable tragedy. Nielsen’s balance of humor and pathos is finely honed, making this a surprisingly breezy read for so heavy a topic.”
“…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.”
—Starred, School Library Journal
About the Author
SUSIN NIELSEN got her start writing a spec script for the popular television series Degrassi Junior High. She went on to pen sixteen episodes of the hit television show and four of the Degrassi books. Since then, she has received two Canadian Screenwriter Awards and a Gemini Award and has written for many home-grown TV series. Her novel Word Nerd, published to much critical acclaim, was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children's Book Award and won the Red Maple, Rocky Mountain, Willow, and Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Awards. This was soon followed by the hilarious and heartwarming Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom, which has received rave reviews and has already been translated into French, Portuguese and German. Susin Nielsen lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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Top Customer Reviews
I WAS SO WRONG.
This book is dark and touching and real and absolutely beautifully written. It's one of those that stays with your for weeks after you finish reading it.
You can see that the blurb tells you pretty much nothing about this book, and I'm sticking with that idea. You'll find zero spoilers here!
What I CAN tell you is that Henry is a wonderful character, the book WILL make you sad and angry, but it DOES have a hopeful ending.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is a short, quick book, but it doesn't lack substance like many short books can.
I highly recommend this book to all kids over age 12, and to ALL parents and educators.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Author Susin Nielsen's unflinchingly realistic book gripped me with dread early on, a feeling that did not dissipate until the final pages. Don't get me wrong - the book is filled with humor and love and laced with hope, but that doesn't make it easier to read. To say I was unprepared for this book would be putting it mildly. That's what I get for judging a book by its cover. On the other hand, if I had known what the book was actually about, I probably would not have read it, which would have been my loss.
This is a powerful, important story full of beautifully (and occasionally, horribly) flawed people, but it's not for everyone. Curse words are scattered throughout the book, but that is inconsequential compared to the story's examination of the worst kind of bullying and its devastating and far-reaching effects. I would, however, whole-heartedly recommend the book to anyone brave and mature enough to read it.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Okay. I can deal with some dark humor. Especially when I look at the cover. Doesn't it look light-hearted? I was expecting something like The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Franscico Stork. Or John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.
NO WAY. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is NOT as light-hearted as TFOS. In fact, it's a very dark, very intense read that depressed the heck out of me. Yes, it's THAT GOOD. It totally involved me. I felt tremendous empathy for Henry and his family, but some times I just had to put it down and go for a walk with the dogs. Maybe hug my kids.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is not a perfect book by the way. Everything wraps up a tiny bit too fast, and the secondary characters aren't fully formed. But I found it poignant and authentic and what it had to say far exceeds any faults.
This is an excellent depiction of a boy and his family family, ripped apart at the seams by violence and tragedy, and how they begin to stitch themselves back together again. The protagonist, 13-year-old Henry, began his diary at the request of his therapist. Although reluctant to write at first (hence the title), Henry came to depend on his journal as a confidant to help him deal with his pain and grief. The characterization of this boy and the people around him -- his parents, other residents in his apartment building, his new school friends -- is spot-on.
The big problem, though, is that this really doesn't sound like a real diary. In my experience just about every diary-novel has this issue. For the story to work, it has to be detailed. You have to actually hear the characters talk, and so on. But most people don't write in their diaries in that kind of detail; diary entries are usually summaries of the day's events instead, since the diarist writes for himself and he already knows what happened.
Try not to let that bother you. This is a very good book. But I think it would have been better in a more typical, episodic format.
If you liked this book you would probably also enjoy Ann Dee Ellis's This is What I Did:, Catherine Austen's Walking Backward and Susan Shaw's One of the Survivors.
While the subject matter is dark (and very timely), the book follows Henry's own healing process. There are some very sad, poignant moments, along with some that will make you double over with laughter. It is all so believable
Henry is neither smarmy or saccharine. He is a very believable kid, with some very conflicting emotions.
Susin Nielsen tackled this subject with great sensitivity, and is very deserving of the recently awarded GG award!
Read it. You'll love it.
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