The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen (who is only writing this because his therapist said he had to, which stinks)
By Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books, c2012. 243 pages. Realistic fiction.
Henry K. Larsen, 13 years old, attends regular therapy sessions to deal with "IT." IT, which author Susin Nielsen deftly reveals bit by bit, is the event that changed everything. IT happened when Henry's older brother, Jesse, after years of bullying, took a gun to the high school and killed his tormentor and himself. Even after moving to a new town, the event casts a shadow over Henry's reputation. As he grows into adolescence, he has his own growing pains to deal with, including keeping his family together and experiencing bullying at his new school. Though the premise is dark, there is honesty and humor in this novel. Boys will especially love Henry and his sarcastic sense of humor, his enjoyment of televised wrestling and the discovery of his first crush. The subject matter at the heart of the novel is geared toward an older audience, but is universally understood. How do you grow up and form your own identity, when the world wants you to fall in line or risk being a target? I would recommend that parents take the opportunity to read this with their middle schoolers. It's a chance to create a lasting, meaningful dialogue about the effects our actions have on others.