The two best things about Jack Gantos's grotesque, tragicomic, and nostalgic Dead End in Norvelt are its lively young narrator, Jack Gantos, and Norvelt, his town - a New Deal homestead community on the skids in Pennsylvania (see sidebar). The summer of 1962 filtered through Jack's psyche (and registered by his emotional-barometer/lie-detector bleeding nose) is sad, funny, and unforgettable.
Grounded for the summer, Jack's adventure begins when his mother "loans" him to Miss Volker, an elderly neighbor in need. Miss Volker's arthritic hands no longer permit her to type the obituaries she writes for the Norvelt News: "When Mrs. Roosevelt hired me to be the chief nurse and medical examiner of this town I was given a typewriter so I could keep health records on the original two hundred and fifty families. Now it's my closing tribute to Mrs. Roosevelt that I write their final health ...
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