The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen (21 page)

BOOK: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
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I asked Dad to drive me to Alberta’s house the day before I started back at school. Cricket answered the door.

“Alberta, it’s that guy you sucked face with!” she shouted before running upstairs.

Rude.

Alberta came to the door. She scowled when she saw me. She was wearing a short-sleeved, red-and-white checked shirt, like a cowgirl would wear, over thick black tights.

“I like your shirt,” I said. “Value Village?”

She just kept scowling at me.

“Alberta,” I said. “I’m sorry, about everything. I’m sorry I lied. I was scared you might not like me anymore if I told you the truth.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “I forgive you,” she said. “But if you ever lie to me again …”

“I won’t.”

“Good.”

Things are still a little awkward between us. But I called her on my cell phone from the van this morning anyway, to tell her where I was going.

“Cool,” she said. Then, just before she hung up: “Hey, Henry. How many wrestlers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”

“I don’t know.”

“Duh, what’s a lightbulb?” There was a pause, followed by
“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-HEEE-haw!”

I’d like to say that everything is good between my parents, but that would be a lie. They argue, a lot. They try to keep their voices down, but I hear them. Sometimes I escape to Karen’s or Mr. Atapattu’s, just so I can breathe.

I have to be really careful about what I say around Mom. A few nights ago she was making supper, and a song I liked came on the radio. I started to say “This band is killer,” but I stopped myself just in time and said, “This band is kil … ometers better than all the other bands out there.” And I rarely play on the PS3 anymore because most of the games involve shooting, which upsets her too much.

It’s still better having her here than not. But it isn’t great. Mom says she needs to go back to Picton soon – to get a bunch of stuff and wrap up her sessions with Dr. Dumas. She says she’s coming back, but I don’t totally believe her.

I’m not sure how my parents will feel when I tell them I’d like to move Jesse’s ashes into the Great Dane lunch box. It doesn’t have to be forever, but it’s a big step up from the shoebox. And I think Jesse would like it.

On Monday I’m going to a suicide bereavement support group with Karen. She’s convinced me to go just once, to see what it’s like. Cecil seemed really pleased when I told him about it. Going with Karen makes it seem doable.

Today was a very good day. Tomorrow might not be so good. The anniversary of IT will be awful. The dread has been building inside me for weeks.

But I also know that life goes on.

Which reminds me.

I’m going to have to ask Cecil for a new notebook.

Praise for
Word Nerd
by Susin Nielsen:

“This is a tender, often funny story with some really interesting characters. It will appeal to word nerds, but even more to anyone who has ever longed for acceptance or had to fight unreasonable parental restrictions.”

– Starred Review,
School Library Journal

“Nielson … crafts a … compelling story. You want to dislike Ambrose, with his narrow interests (Scrabble), his dire peanut allergy, his social ineptitude, and his clingy relationship with his horrible mother, but you can’t.”

– Recommended by
CM Magazine

“This novel is about finding the right path.… This is a good story with characters who are all outsiders to the affluent world of the setting in North Vancouver. The author describes very accurately how Ambrose and his mother survive on a meager salary and how concern for his safety makes his mother unreasonable and reactionary.”


Resource Links

“… a beautifully drawn character.… [A] funny, wry tale, a tale that involves a lot of Scrabble (at the championship level), the reformation of an ex-con/druggie, and the coming-into-himself of a boy. And there’s a bit of love, too, actually.”


The Globe and Mail


Word Nerd
moves as fast as a World Scrabble competition and has a game sense of humor … Susin Nielsen has done a fine job in bringing to life a first-class nerd whose very limitations make him a most extraordinary person who young readers will want to see more of.… Nielsen has a lovely comic touch in creating around Ambrose an interesting circle of adult friends who are every bit as unique as he is!”


Canadian Children’s Book News

Praise for
Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom
by Susin Nielsen:

“Nielsen (
Word Nerd
) has created a narrator as sassy and candid as this memorable novel’s title.… Nielsen skillfully balances her story’s keen humor … with poignancy. Especially affecting are Violet’s struggles to accept her father’s new family.… ”

– Starred Review,
Publishers Weekly

“This amusing but also touching novel deals with divorce and step families in a light-hearted way.”

– The White Ravens 2011

“Laugh-out-loud humor deftly mixes with insight into a troubled girl’s pain over her parents’ divorce, keeping readers involved on every page.… Nielsen has real talent for comedy, zoning in on just the right level of snark.… The narrative’s balance tips much more into comedy than drama, but it illuminates Violet’s psychological difficulties among the laughs. Best friends, stuck-up enemies, and a possible love interest for Violet spice up the story. A nifty almost-saw-it-coming ending puts everything right. This comic novel scores.”


Kirkus Reviews

“Violet is a complex, appealing character whose intimate, lively first-person narrative, both droll and heartfelt, discusses classmate conflicts and crushes as well as her insecurities and her gradual acceptance of what she can and cannot control. Though she often faces challenges and situations with not-so-graceful aplomb, Violet’s growth and authentic range of emotions, from anger (including some cringe-worthy acting up) to healing and trust, ring true in this very engaging read.”


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BOOK: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
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