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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos


Along with the author, the main character in this story is named Jack Gantos, and he lives in a shrinking coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania called Norvelt.  There are a lot of very unusual folks living in Norvelt, and most of them are older than Jack and his parents.  When poor Jack is grounded for the whole summer he is limited to socializing with his elderly neighbor, Miss Volkert, who needs Jack to type up the very colorful obituaries for the residents who die.  It didn’t take too long for me to begin to wonder why so many residents are dying, and to realize there’s a mystery in this story, too.
There is a lot of silliness worked into this story, a mix of historical facts, and perhaps some of what might be called stretching the truth.  Miss Volker recalls moving stories of her friends’ lives, and shares how the residents all worked together to help each other in what seemed to be simpler days.  It is a story that keeps moving and kept my interest.  I couldn’t wait to see how the author pulls it all together, and I wasn’t disappointed.

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