Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Book For That Worrisome Teenager You Want To Scare Straight

When I heard a few years back that Jack Gantos had written a memoir about his imprisonment for drug running when he was twenty, I thought, Gee, you'd think there'd be some parent or adult group somewhere having a hissy fit about a childen's writer with a background like this. Not that I thought someone should have a hissy fit about it. It just seems like the kind of thing someone always is having a hissy fit about.

Hole in My Life is probably a book that every teenager ought to be forced to read. Holy Moses. Talk about a cautionary tale. And I don't think Gantos was trying to do the instructional thing. His writing style is very plain, but the story is an eye popper.

Seriously, even before he gets to the crime he talks about getting so drunk he was vomiting caustic substances. That sure makes being blind drunk look attractive. And before he got caught he had to worry about one of his co-conspirators killing him. Wouldn't a lot of young minds read this kind of thing and think, Nah, I'll just get a job at Target, after all?

Interesting note: Hole in My Life also deals with Gantos's evolution as a young writer, and his movement toward becoming a children's writer. While in prison, he enjoyed recalling his childhood and thinking of childhood events in terms of stories. Some of his short stories do have a very autobiographical feel to them.

Jack Gantos is the author of books of short stories and the Joey Pigza books.

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