Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos – Audiobook Review

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, narrated by Jack Gantos
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR), both imprints of Macmillan


Growing up can be difficult, especially when you live in an exceedingly quirky town called Norvelt that was originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt that consists mostly of elderly people. It is even harder when you’re Jack Gantos and you’re grounded for the summer thanks to conflicting directions from your mom who loves Norvelt and your father who hates it. It looks like it might be a boring summer for Jack, until he is apprenticed to the town’s arthritic obit writer and medical examiner. Suddenly, being grounded has never been so interesting.

Thoughts on the story:

Quirkiness abounds! Gantos seems to have a great love for the absurd, but at times while listening, I felt that the goal was absurdity for its own sake, which I did not find particularly endearing. In fact, I was nearly halfway into Dead End in Norvelt before I determined that I would, indeed, continue through to the end and not simply abandon the book. Eventually, though, the town of Norvelt and its inhabitants grew on me and, by the end, I was even a bit sad that the book had ended.

One interesting thing about Dead End in Norvelt is the way it blends events from Gantos’s own life with those that occurred only in his imagination. I often wondered exactly where that line was.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Like the story, Gantos’s narration took some time to grow on me. He came across initially as a somewhat less funny David Sedaris. In general, though, I do think he was the best person to tell his own story, as he was able to perfectly give voice to some of the oddness contained therein.


Although I am not overly enthusiastic about Dead End in Norvelt, I do think it is worth picking up if the synopsis interests you, or if you are in the mood for a quirky listen.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

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