• Biography related title
• Age Range: Grades 8th-adult
• Author: Jack Gantos
• Title: Hole in My Life
• Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
• 208 pages.
• ISBN: 978- 0374399887
• Awards: Robert F. Sibert Honor Book 2003~ Massachusetts Book Award for Children/Young Adult Literature 2003~ Printz Honor 2003~ Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee 2007-ALA Notable Book
• Author’s website: http://www.jackgantos.com/
Newbery Award-winning Jack Gatos’s memoir chronicles his unmoored final year in high school and his subsequent misguided efforts to make enough money to go to college. Smuggling hashish lands him in prison, giving him plenty of time to reflect and write.
Gantos’s Che Guevera-esque mug shot on the cover and the publisher’s summary: The author relates how, as a young adult, he became a drug user and smuggler, was arrested, did time in prison, and eventually got out and went to college, all the while hoping to become a writer, doesn’t incline adults to recommend this book to the teen audience for whom it was intended. Checking my local library system I noted more than half the branches shelve it in adult nonfiction, and when I sought out the title after hearing Gantos’s charming and quirky 2011 Newbery acceptance speech I was nonplussed by the content and passed it by, until now.
I found the book fascinating and entertaining. Gantos walks a delicate line, revealing gritty details, earnest and knuckle-headed choices and an entirely believable teenage cluelessness that adults and teens will recognize. His fear as he contemplates up to six years in Federal prison is palpable. His experiences leading up to prison, and while incarcerated, feel honest, unforgettable, vulnerable and remarkably, often darkly humorous. Gantos to his credit does not minimize the seriousness of his situation nor does he play his travail for laughs, he simply reports the situation as he experienced it, thoughtfully and without didacticism. I was surprised by how well paced the book was and how beautifully it was written.
While there are depictions of drug use, mentions of serious violence and prison rape, the author’s tone and thoughtful reflections make the book suitable for mature 8th graders through adults.
The front matter includes a table of contents and a very apt epigraph by Oscar Wilde: I have learned this: it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it. There is no back matter and no information on Gantos’s website that addresses the particulars of what came after his release from prison.