Thirteen-year-old Henry's happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father's hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry's family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city, where no one knows their past. When Henry's therapist suggests he keeps a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night.
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.
What People are Saying About This
Winner - Governor General's Award - Children's Literature (2012)
“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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.