The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

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The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“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.”
—Lavender Lines

Beautiful and thought provoking The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is filled with lessons, heartache, pain, anger, family and friendship. Wonderfully done….”
—Book Nerd

 “…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

Children's Literature - Greta Holt
Henry loved to watch the "Saturday Night Smash-Up," a wrestling show that he, his older brother Jesse, and his parents used to watch together. Since IT happened, though, Henry has lost his girl, his home, his mother, and his brother. His mother has separated from Henry's dad, and Jesse is dead. Henry's dad keeps Jesse's ashes in a shoebox under the bed in the small, sad apartment they have moved to in another city, away from IT. At the new apartment complex, the wanton Karen Vargas tries to date Henry's father, and lonely Mr. Atapattu tries to get them to eat his Indian cooking. Henry must go to a therapist, laid-back Cecil, who wants him to keep a journal, the dumbest thing ever. Henry speaks in Robot-Voice whenever adults are acting really dumb, which is often. On his first day at his new school, the nerdy Farley clings onto Henry. Farley belts his pants on his chest and is the object of derision by the bully Troy and friends. Farley decides that he and Henry must try to earn money to go to an actual "Saturday Night Smash-Up" in a nearby city. They collect dirty cans thrown into the school's recycling. Troy gets wind of it and the bullying escalates. The stage is set for a winning story, and Nielsen delivers an enviable blend of pathos and humor. The stakes are high, the main character is feisty and sincere, and the secondary characters colorful. Like Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, this book is a valuable addition to any library's anti-bullying collection. Because of content, librarians may wish to recommend the novel to older students, as well as middle grade students. Reviewer: Greta Holt
VOYA - Nina Anikeeva
Nielsen establishes an endearing teen protagonist in Henry, and despite discussing serious topics, like separation and suicide, infuses humor to keep the book from becoming overly dark. Nielsen ends the book in an unexpected way, as if giving in to readers’ best wishes for Henry. From the way the story was going, with all the details insinuating the family was permanently broken up, the ending is certainly a drawback. 4Q, 4P. Ages 12 to 15.
VOYA - Rebecca Moore
Thirteen-year-old Henry Larsen and his father have just moved to Vancouver. They are trying to start new lives after Henry’s older brother--mercilessly bullied for years--took a gun to school. Henry’s mother is not quite ready to join them. When Henry’s hippie counselor suggests Henry keep a journal, he intends to write as little as possible but soon finds himself pouring out his feelings. He writes about his family, and the incident that tore them apart. He describes his weight problems, his new school, and his family’s love affair with the Global Wrestling Foundation. Finally, he writes about the new friends who manage, despite his best efforts, to help him start healing. Henry’s voice rings sharp and true and poignant. It cuts to the bone as he recalls his brother, struggles with feelings beyond his ability to comprehend, and sketches in the details of his life. With perfect pacing, in age-appropriate vocabulary and understanding, Henry interweaves his sorrow, his love of TV wrestling, his daily life, and the multifaceted characters surrounding him. Although this book carries a desperate message about bullying’s repercussions, it never feels didactic, just sadly true. While the end brings hope, the reader knows that Henry and his family will, at best, learn to just cope. Henry’s highly relevant journal can help readers understand both the reasons Jesse took action, and the grief and anguish experienced by shooters’ families. The vivid depictions of bullying make this best suited to seventh graders and up. Ages 12 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 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
Kirkus Reviews
A young teen reveals through journal entries how he and his family piece their lives back together after a tragedy in this dark but humorous story. Thirteen-year-old Henry's happy life abruptly ends when his older brother kills the boy who bullied him in school and then takes his own life. Henry refers to this tragedy as "IT." He moves to a new city with his family for a fresh start. To help him cope with IT, Henry's therapist recommends he keep a journal. Henry hates the suggestion but soon finds himself recording his thoughts and feelings constantly, even updating it multiple times per day. He tries to be a loner in his new school but eventually befriends a circle of eccentric outsiders. Though Henry reveals nothing to them about his dark secret, they help him come to terms with his pain. Henry is a likable, sympathetic protagonist, as are the supporting characters in the story. Nielsen injects enough humor into the story to sustain the drama of Henry's ordeal without making it too maudlin or morose, and the honesty with which he confronts his feelings in his journal is both disarming and endearing. A realistic, poignant portrait of one teen who overcomes nearly unbearable feelings of grief and guilt. (Fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781770496545
  • Publisher: Tundra
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 237,580
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 21, 2013

    I have not stopped thinking about this book, and how I wanted t

    I have not stopped thinking about this book, and how I wanted to put into words how much I loved it.

    Honestly, in my own ignorance, I have never really thought much about the families of the shooter, when I hear of these things on the news. I have felt for the shooter in some cases, but never really thought about their families. Always the victims' families. But they are victims also, aren't they?

    I just loved the writing, the characters, the story....all of it.

    Henry K. Larsen.....what a brave, strong character. Love him!

    I am sure I could add more, I just can't figure out how to put it all into words.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Henry and his dad have moved to a new town in Canada following a

    Henry and his dad have moved to a new town in Canada following a family tragedy.  His counselor recommends he keep a journal and although journalling is not his cup of tea, Henry details his feelings with honesty, humor, and warmth.  Through the journal, we learn about the bullying Henry observed being directed at his older brother, the day his brother shot the bully and then himself, the mental breakdown which means his mom is in a psych ward, and Henry's hopes that the future will work out better for himself.  Henry joins a team of nerdy students competing for academic honors, despite his better judgement; his new best friend is a gem.  Adults and teens should read this book to remember that the family members left behind after such a tragedy are coping the best they can, be that with humor or withdrawal or behavior not previously seen.  The wrestler in the cover illustration has put off potential readers in my middle school library so I'm going to work harder to get this wonderful book in the hands of my students.  Highly recommended.

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