Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is the first fiction book I’ve ever read where the main character has the same name as the author!  Huh?  And Eleanor Roosevelt plays prominently in the story, though she never makes an appearance.

It is set in Norvelt (as in EleaNOR RooseVELT), a single coal mine town set up by the government as a model town during the Great Depression.  The story takes place as the last of the original town founders are dying off, and the younger people remaining are wanting to leave, too.  A young boy, Jack Gantos, gets the distinct chore of helping an elderly, arthritic woman write obituaries for these original residents as they die off one by one.  She has a fun way of weaving history into the obituaries so people will learn something in the process.

I felt young boys would appreciate the outlandish situations and characters more than I did.  Even though the boy shares the author’s name, and the town of Norvelt really does exist, you never really wonder if it is based on a true story, if you know what I mean.  Hell’s Angels and a dancing plague?  Really?  And no comment about Jack’s dysfunctional parents.

In the end, you may never look at an adult tricycle the same way again.  And if you just don’t get enough, there is a sequel to this book: From Norvelt to Nowhere.



Copyright © Gienah Beaty,, 2016.  All rights reserved.  (Public Domain image courtesy of