Former Degrassi script writer, Susin Nielson, creates vivid and engaging characters in The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. While older teens may be reluctant to read a story that focuses on a thirteen-year-old trying to restart his life after a tragedy, older children and younger teens (aged 11-14) will appreciate the depth of emotion and the quirky peak into high school life.
Despite its colourful and childish cover design, the book tackles an onslaught of heavy topics such as mental illness, body image, bullying, suicide, school shootings, parental separation, and alcoholism. However these big ticket items, which the book has become known for, are balanced out by delightfully witty narration, questionable fashion choices, first love, strange friends, and of course the Global Wrestling Federation. A book that can provide guidance for those struggling through grief, and trying to wrap their minds around tragedy, while maintaining a sense of humor and a lighthearted tone? That’s a rarity in YA lit. And in life. I commend Susin Nielson for somehow managing to present such delicate subject matter interspersed among moments of hilarity and the everyday struggles of the grade nine “new kid.”