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Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

Publisher: Tundra Books
Published: September 11, 2012
Pages: 256
Source: From Random House Canada
Rating: 5 Stars

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 keep a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night.
In spite of Henry’s desire to “fly under the radar,” he eventually befriends a number of oddball characters, both at school and in his modest apartment building. And even though they know nothing about his past – at least, not yet – they help him navigate the waters of life after “IT.”

In short: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen was a wholly enjoyable read with a very important message.
What a lovely, quick read this was! I'm not really sure what I had been expecting of The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen - perhaps just a nice and moral story about bullying - but I had no idea of the depth of the subject matter, nor that I would end up enjoying it so much! Susin Nielsen manages to create a perfect balance of serious and poignant subject matter and cute and witty humour with effortless writing to produce a thoroughly enjoyable MG contemporary read with an important message. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was, simply, a JOY to read and I highly recommend it to all readers.

The varied cast of colourful characters was a huge part of the reason The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was such a delightful read for me. I seriously loved them all. They were excellently written, with their quirks on full display, and they were just so VIBRANT. They may have been a bit on the cliched side, but I found that there was something very comforting and heartening about them, perhaps because of those reliable well-known personalities.

Something else that I really and truly loved about this book was how Canadian it was. Admittedly - and rather ashamedly - I don't really read a whole lot of local fiction. But after reading The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, I am convinced that I MUST read more books from local authors in the future. It was so fun to read a book with Canadian references and a Canadian setting. And it's always good to support local authors.

But above all, I really appreciated the message of the novel. The importance of being true to yourself and loving others for being themselves. The importance of standing up for yourself and not taking to heart what the bullies say. Because in the end, those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind. I wish I could've had the maturity and self-assuredness that Henry develops when I was his age.

Other Reviews:
Cozy Up With A Good Read
Midnight Bloom Reads

Authors Links:


  1. Never heard of this one and because I'm not a fan of the cover, I probably would have passed it up. Thanks to your review, you brought it to my attention and I think I may have missed a delightful book. Thanks!

  2. This sounds really really good. Awesome review. I love stories with awesome messages.

  3. This one sounds like an interesting, heart-felt read. Great review Aylee.

  4. I agree, while sometimes cliched characters can feel boring and crappy sometimes it's a relief how REAL they are and definitely makes the story much more believable. This really sounds like a book that I would love, I look for stories that deal with tough issues and have a beautiful message. Great review, Aylee!

  5. i haven't heard of this book but i love it when a book surprises you!! i don't think i've really read that much canadian fiction but love all the canadian references, it is fun when you know them. great review! <3

  6. I love books with strong characters. They can really make or break a book for me. Also I love Canadian writers! Gotta support local talent :)

    This sounds like a great read and I will definitely be checking it out

  7. I'm having a growing respect for Canadian authors - though, in truth, I'm one of those crazy people obsessed about how pretty the Great White North is, even though I've never been there, but what can I say?I just LOVE Canada :D

    Anyway, the book sounds really good! I'll add it to my wish list : D

  8. This sounds like a very cute read! I love a book that has a great message behind it. Though, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about this based on the cover. Your review makes it sound very good!

  9. I don't think I've read much that was set in Canada, but this sounds like a great place to start doing that. I'm glad you really enjoyed it. Sounds like an important novel, and done quite well.


  10. AAAAH! You read it (:
    It's about bullying!? That's why... *sobs* I think I'm going to like it anyways. So on my wishlist now!
    I kind of have to read a lot of American authors cause there everywhere. I couldn't really say what Canadian books I've read. Who's a famous author and Canadian? o_0

  11. Aylee, I probably would never read this one if it wasn't for your review! I just love the way you make it sound and will definitely be adding it to my wishlist. You know I love finding out about Canadian authors and supporting them, and think it's great that this one also happens to be full of Canadian references.

  12. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen is not a perfect book by the way. Everything wraps up a tiny bit too fast, and the secondary characters aren't fully formed. But I found it poignant and authentic and what it had to say far exceeds any faults.

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  13. "The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. larsen" by Susin Nielsen is the first book to make me cry in years. Even with it's many humorous moments, and loveable hero, it is such a powerful book about bullying, suicide, and the effects on everyone left behind.

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