This historical fiction was last years Newberry winner and the Scott O’dell Award winner for historical fiction. I am afraid this is 2 years in a row that I don’t love the Newberry winner. Last year was Moon over Manifest and this year is Dead End in Norvelt. They are not the worst books I have ever read but I can think of several alternatives for one of the highest awards in children’s lit.
I struggled to even finish this story. It was set in a very obscure historical town. Of all the national history that kids could be exposed to, this one seemed off. I love Eleanor Roosevelt and would have enjoyed more definition of her life. I felt that this story of this “social experiment” of a town was preachy, given today’s current dichotomy in American politics.
I also felt anxious about how often the tween protagonist was exploited by the adults in his life for their personal agendas. Even his father left him grounded for the summer as punishment for something he demanded the tween do. The supposed legal authority of town extorted the child to unknowingly assist in murder.
I suppose these issues would make for great discussions with an older (YA) audience. Even, so I wasn’t in love with the writing. The story was choppy and just odd. I couldn’t even really call it fun and quirky. Sorry, Newberry, but this would not be in my recommended list.