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The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by S. Nielsen



Nielsen, Susin. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2012. Print.

Susin Nielsen is the acclaimed author of Word Nerd and Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mother. She has won several writing awards and has consistently created compelling, charismatic, and fully drawn characters. In her new novel, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, Nielsen explores dark and uncomfortable themes such as mental illness, bullying, violence, tolerating differences, and the quiet desperation felt by those who must refashion their lives after a tragedy. For readers concerned that the novel will break their heart, it does. And then it fills that broken heart with joy.

Through his affecting journal entries, readers come to know 13-year-old Henry K. Larsen. His therapist recommends that he write about his thoughts and feelings in the aftermath of “IT”—hence the ‘reluctant’ diary. However, Henry’s diary entries are laugh out loud funny on one page and provoke tears on the next. Henry has an extraordinary voice that is unlike any other narrator. He is angry, confused, saddened, shamed, and lost after “IT” happened. He has moved with his father to Vancouver to try to piece together a new life but in reality, his family barely manages to make it through the day. Henry is leery of other people, pushes them away, and he cannot find a place for himself or make sense of his emotions after “IT.” The last thing that Henry anticipates is that he will open up to anyone about “IT”—not to his wonderful new friends Farley and Alberta, to his therapist, or to his two new neighbours. However, incidents at school and at home force Henry to talk about Jesse and the “IT” that changed everyone’s lives forever.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is a quick and deeply satisfying read. This book is required reading. Despite the darker themes, the emotional payoff is not only gratifying, but inspiring.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Tami Oliphant

Tami Oliphant works as a research librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries and for the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. She earned her Master of Library and Information Studies from the University of Alberta and her doctorate from the University of Western Ontario. She has worked in academic libraries, public libraries, communications and planning, and as a sessional lecturer and researcher at the University of Alberta and the University of Western Ontario.