Title: Hole in My Life
Author: Jack Gantos
Genre: YA Memoir
Number of Pages: 200
Jack Gantos is hit-or-miss for me (I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Joey Pigza books, the last one in the JP series and The Trouble in Me were one-star reads.) I was tentative about reading this but it turned out to be one of the better memoirs I’ve read in a long time. When Jack Gantos was in his early 20’s, he went to prison for drug smuggling.
It was a stupid, impulsive crime and they threw the book hard at him, landing him in a ‘medium-security’ prison where an acquaintance (also in for drug charges) was gang-raped the first night there. Ironically, this was the place where Gantos truly became passionate about his writing.
He had wanted to write professionally for years but more focused on having life experiences worth writing about than putting pen to paper. Deprived of writing materials, he used a copy of The Brothers Karamazov as a journal and struggled to stay sane in a dangerous environment where he was constantly in danger of sexual assault or worse.
I liked how honest Jack Gantos was about his flaws and the bad decisions he had made. He looked into his motivations and why he did things without putting the blame for his mistakes on other people. He had a wealth of fascinating life experiences (living in a city in the throe of race riots where white people were fleeing in droves, going to a high school that used to be a prison) and met a lot of really interesting people.
His writing style was clear and concise, and not without humor. It pulls you right into the immediacy of his experiences and powerfully evokes his evolution not only as a man, but also as a writer. I might not like some of his books (even loving and hating books in the same series) but this book was a winner and deserves its place among must-read memoirs for young adults.