One YA book I’ve had my eye on for a few months now is The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. What a book. I finished it in a little less that three days, just reading before bed! The author (and story) are Canadian, something I usually avoid like the plague. I should be prouder of the authors from my home and native land, but to be honest I just don’t care about most of what they write about. I do love Robert Munsch and Kit Pearson, but off the top of my head I find it hard to name another Canadian author (L.M. Montgomery aside, obviously) that I would willingly read. But lo and behold, Susin Nielsen wrote a Canadian book that didn’t put me to sleep! I wasn’t aware it was a Canadian book until a spotted the little red maple leaf sticker the teach librarian here had placed on the spine. I’m incredibly glad I did read it, despite the sticker.
Henry K. Larsen has been plucked from his life on the island and placed in a small apartment and new school in Vancouver. We know that he’s writing this journal because it was given to him by his therapist and we know he doesn’t want his therapist to actually know he’s using the journal. The reader also knows something terrible has happened to Henry’s family that’s led to his mother living across the country and him and his father trying to make a new life in a new city without anyone learning their “secret”. There is also a brother, who is dead, so you can assume this terrible secret Henry doesn’t want anyone to know is about him. I had a fairly good idea that the brother had been involved in a school shooting (bingo!) but even knowing this I still felt compelled to turn the page as quickly as possible to know what was happening. The characters are real, the situations are real, and the outcome/ending is very real. I really can’t recommend this book enough for grades 7 and up. Boys, girls, nerds, jocks, whatever your label, this book reaches everyone. And a Canadian school shooting! This is an age when working in a school means knowing the correct procedure for a lock down, something that not everyone my age is familiar with, even post Columbine. So get out there and read this and make sure you recommend it to everyone.