“IT” happened six months ago. In a new city, Henry chronicles his thoughts and schemes as he and his father work to put the past behind them and make a fresh start.
This tender and timely novel explores the aftermath of a school shooting through the journal entries of the perpetrator’s younger brother – the eponymous Henry. The emotions that Henry is going through are layered and complex. He struggles with mourning the loss of the brother whom he loved and admired and reconciling that person with the one who brandished a rifle against another student before turning it on himself, ripping his community and family apart. Henry is angry, afraid, confused and heartbroken. He wants to put what happened in the past and hopes that if he doesn’t mention or even think about “IT,” then it will go away. But even after moving across the country, the aftereffects are everywhere.
While the weighty subject matter is dealt with in an appropriate respectful and thoughtful way, Henry is a bit of an oddball teenage boy, and his story includes plenty of lighter and even humorous passages. As Henry settles into his new school and befriends the painfully awkward Farley, they undertake a scheme to make enough money to get tickets for a live professional wrestling event. Henry’s love of professional wrestling and terminology for the sport are integrated into the story, as are the “intriguing facts” he has stored up in his trivia-savvy head. The secondary characters who live in Henry’s building and go to school with him are realistically and fully drawn and are quirky and troubled in their own ways.
More than just a book about forgiveness and moving on after tragedy, this is also a story about the importance of speaking out and standing up for victims of bullying. This is an accessible book perfect for younger teens and will also find an audience with reluctant readers. Readers should be prepared to laugh and to cry.
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was a 2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, won the 2012 Governor’s General Award for Children’s Literature (Canada) and earned a spot on Rolling Stones’ list of the 40 Best YA Novels.