Dead End in Norvelt Study Guide

Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt is an autobiographical novel by Jack Gantos published in 2011. The novel follows Jack's life one summer while living in his hometown of Norvelt, Pennsylvania. After firing his father's sniper rifle, Jack is grounded, allowed to leave the house only to help Miss Volker write a newspaper column and obituaries. The novel follows the life of the town and a murder mystery that Jack and Volker unravel, promoting values of literacy, community and history.

Dead End takes place during the summer after the American schoolboy Jack Gantos fires his father's war trophy, a Japanese sniper rifle thinking it is unloaded, but a bullet somehow flies out. As punishment, he must stay in the house except as sent by his mother to help their elderly neighbor Miss Volker write obituaries for the town newspaper.

He notices that elderly, "original Norvelters" are dying away relatively fast. Later, a Hell's Angel dies while crazily dancing a three-mile stretch, and the rest of the Hell's Angel gang begins to light houses on fire. Even later, Jack's dad acquires a J-3 airplane, and assigns Jack to dig an underground bomb shelter as the dad builds a runway for the plane, and Jack gets a car from Miss Volker as a birthday present.

As Jack thinks about the strange rate of deaths in original Norvelters, he realizes that thin mint Girl Scout cookies may have something to do with it because many people in town were using it. Soon, Miss Volker is placed in house arrest when the police find poisoned chocolates in her basement and accuse her of feeding them to the old Norvelters.

While visiting her, Miss Volker says that a man named Mr. Spizz admitted to killing the Norvelters, and that Mr. Spizz stole Jack's car to get a six-hour head start on police.

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