Hole in my Life, by Jack Gantos (Square Fish 2002)
Every reader will love Jack Gantos’ true story of totally messing up his young life (and turning it around). His father wasted lots of energy and good advice on him: “These folks [bad neighbors] zigged when the rest of the world zagged. And once you cross that line, there’s no coming back. Mark my words.” Gantos was an idealistic reader, and tried his hand at writing in imitation of the writers he was reading—before he and his brother decided to make a huge amount of money so Gantos could never have to support himself again, and could pay college tuition and just write.
Well, that didn’t turn out so well, of course.
Once he was arrested for smuggling drugs into New York City on a boat, he did indeed have plenty of time on his hands, and certainly plenty of material to write about. First, inside the Federal Correctional Institution in Kentucky, he focused on his acne and on staying alive. He is really a smart guy, so his path diverged a bit from some Others we may know. His focus moved to those around him. He even worked in the prison hospital, using the X Ray on nasty wounds and listening to every single injured inmate repeat that “No, I didn’t see who did it and don’t know why anyone would do this.”
He had lots of time to read, and you will find his descriptions of books and their relevance fascinating. But this is NOT an academic book. It is a fast-paced adventure story that reveals all his mistakes (even attacking his acne). He gives the Insider’s look at the forces that impede inmates as well as those that propelled him to write.
Now Gantos writes young adult literature. He wins writing awards and honors—the Michael L. Prince Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor Book, for instance, and The Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. This memoir won a starred review in Kirkus Review. But all this began with a smart-ass kid who wanted to make some fast money. Sound familiar? Let’s hope all our stories turn out as well as Gantos’, and that all our Loved Ones overcome that “zig” and are able to come back into our Outside world.
I give this book 2 thumbs up and encourage you to send it Inside and buy a second copy for yourself—a terrific book to discuss with your Loved one.