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Hole in My Life

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  5,737 Ratings  ·  1,031 Reviews
Becoming a writer the hard way

In the summer of 1971, Jack Gantos was an aspiring writer looking for adventure, cash for college tuition, and a way out of a dead-end job. For ten thousand dollars, he recklessly agreed to help sail a sixty-foot yacht loaded with a ton of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City, where he and his partners sold the drug until federal
Paperback, 200 pages
Published September 8th 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published March 26th 2002)
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Chelsea Guerrero it showed that jack had a lot to write about in his life. when jack was in prison he realized that. Therefore being jail made him realize his…moreit showed that jack had a lot to write about in his life. when jack was in prison he realized that. Therefore being jail made him realize his potential to make his dream come true. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jul 05, 2009 Joe rated it it was amazing
Dear James Frey,

This, my good man, is how you write a harrowing memoir about an endless string of bad decisions involving drugs that results in time spent in the pokey.

Kisses and cuddles,
Feb 23, 2009 Sara rated it it was amazing
This book isn't as well-known as it should be. For one thing, most children's book authors don't admit to a criminal past. But Jack Gantos had the guts to do so, and it's a great story. Honest without being brutal, and always with that Gantos edge of detail and humor, I can close my eyes and still remember when I first encountered this book. I was impressed then, and I still am.
Apr 07, 2009 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You always hear tragic tales that involve drugs and you never think it could apply to you. Why would it? You're a decent person that knows right from wrong, it can't happen to you. When we are young, we all believe we are invincible, some of us still do.

Jack Gantos recounts his struggle starting as a young high school student aspiring to become a writer. He has plans for college so he can become a better writer but feels he has nothing to write about. Through his search for inspiration and lack
Mar 06, 2009 Patricia rated it it was amazing
This young adult autobiography is a candid account of a young man whose aspirations to become a writer would not be fulfilled before he made some bad decisions and suffered the consequences.
While I think the book was well written and not an apology for his mistakes, I would not recommend hole in my life for the middle school students I teach. Gantos’ experiences with drugs, smuggling, and self-doubt are more appropriate for young adults. The quote from Oscar Wilde sums up why this IS a good bi
Kelsey Dangelo
Aug 23, 2014 Kelsey Dangelo rated it it was amazing
“I have learned this: it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it.” ~Oscar Wilde
“Someone once said anyone can be great under rosy circumstances, but the true test of character is measured by how well a person makes decisions during difficult time.”
“I was armed with books the way the navy goes to sea armed to the teeth.”

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (200 pages)

Jack Gantos, author of children’s books, writes his autobiographical account of how, lost and adri
Kate Schwarz
Feb 23, 2014 Kate Schwarz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
When a book starts with a whopper of an open line such as "The prisoner in the photograph is me" and the pages following that line tell a harrowing, incredible, true story of a foolish but likeable young man (with years of self-reflection between his mistakes and publication) and how one huge, bad decision goes down... Well, that requires a reader like me to read the book in one long inhale.

But Gantos' impressive writing slowed me down-- many passages were so good I had to read them twice. He i
Jan 12, 2010 Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Jack Gantos, a children's author, writes a memoir about his last year of high school and how he ends up in prison. I picked it up because I thought it looked interesting and I wondered why it was in a middle school library. After reading it I would say it belongs in a high school library because of the drug references, prison violence, and prison rape. The moral of the story is a good one and it is nice to see him succeed after being in prison. It is a cautionary tale but a little too harsh for ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 06, 2013 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good friend gave me this book and told me it would be a fast and humorous read. She was right about fast, and she was right about funny. She didn't tell me how profound the book would be, how insightful and applicable.

Before Gantos became an award winning author of young adult novels, he was a kid struggling to find himself. This book takes us on his journey, from his young life in Florida to his higher teen years in the Virgin Islands where his family moved so his father could find work. Wha
Oct 18, 2016 Adar rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: miss welsh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 29, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it
I read this quickly and with moderate interest as to what would happen to young Jack in his journeys, both literal (as he ferried drugs) and figurative. I was especially struck by his story because he was a high school senior and then graduate, by the skin of his teeth, struggling to find his way in life. It wasn't that he was utterly lost--he knew he wanted to be a writer, and the maddeningly idealistic way in which he hopes, pines, and bounces around hoping to witness something great while wor ...more
Oct 12, 2012 Alex rated it liked it
Jack Gantos's memoir, despite being promoted as the story of one big mistake is really an exploration of how a string of small mistakes can land you somewhere you never wanted to go. Gantos's downfall started with a seemingly innocent decision to accompany a friend to a party and smoke some weed. From there, Gantos makes a string of increasingly foolish decisions, spurred on by "friends" who aren't really friends at all, and unchecked by his parents, who are largely absent from the narrative. Wi ...more
Oct 28, 2015 Amy added it
Very thought-provoking. This would be a great book club selection. Here are some of the things it made me think about:

-The efficacy of the prison system. Gantos was relatively lucky in that he worked in the prison hospital as an x-ray technician, so he learned a valuable skill - but not all prisoners had similar opportunities. It seemed liked Gantos' prison experience (outside of his hospital work) was pretty oppressive and not at all helpful in terms of making positive life changes. He was in p
Jul 25, 2012 Kelly rated it it was amazing
The compelling story of the author's final year in high school, his brushes with crime, and his subsequent incarceration. Gantos has written much about his early years with his eccentric family, and this more serious book picks up the tale as they moved to Puerto Rico during his junior year. He returned to Florida alone, living in a seedy motel while he finished high school and realized that his options for college weren't great. A failed drug deal cost him most of his savings and he joined his ...more
Apr 23, 2015 Melissa rated it liked it
I like this book because it it was about someone that had a good education but didn't get to go to college because of his actions.It was a good book because it tell you what the character went throw in jail.
Jacob Williams
Jan 29, 2015 Jacob Williams rated it it was ok
Gantos' memoir Hole in My Life can be succinctly boiled down to a proof of the Oscar Wilde quotation printed before the first page of the book. Wilde states,"I have learned this: it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it."

The memoir recounts Gantos' experiences as he sputters through his final year of high school, stumbles into a drug smuggling job, gets caught, gets incarcerated, and gets out. With this narrative as backdrop,Gantos describes his persona
Mrs. Reed
Jan 29, 2015 Mrs. Reed rated it liked it
Shelves: in-the-classroom
This is one of those rare books that is on my "in-the-classroom" shelf but not on my "kidbooks" shelf! While Jack Gantos generally writes for children, this book is definitely geared toward an older audience. I picked it up because I had recently read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key and I know from a shorter memoir that Gantos was kind of a tough customer as a kid (or at least a wannabe), so I was interested to learn more about his life.

The narrative itself is well-written and moderately engaging.
Jonathan Kranz
May 06, 2013 Jonathan Kranz rated it it was amazing
I met Jack Gantos back in the early to mid '90's when he was an instructor in Emerson College's MFA program. He stood out from the pack. For starters, he was (and judging by his videos today, still is) a snappy dresser, a notable departure from the running-shoe and tired jeans look favored by many writers. His advice was uncommonly practical, with an emphasis on story structure that has proven very useful. And above all, there was his manner: unassuming, yet compelling; witty, but never deprecat ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Lucas rated it really liked it
Lucas Pires Morais
Independent Reading
18th October 12
Hole in my Life
By Jack Gantos, Biography, 200 Pages
Hole in my life is a very eye opening auto biography by Jack Gantos, a young American man who led a life without any superstition. Today Gantos is a successful children’s book write, but he was not the person he is today. Jack learned from his mistakes the hard way. In this book, he explains how his life in high school was like and how he was a very spoiled boy, with fast cars and a fak
Debbie Reiber
Feb 04, 2013 Debbie Reiber rated it really liked it

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is an autobiography. It was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book in 2003. The age group this book is intended for is advance. The book describes Jack Gantos life from his teen years to his years in prison. He’s not very proud of his decisions that led to prison, but he’s learned that ignorance is no excuse.
I thought this was a good story. The details of his thoughts charmed me. I listened to audiobook; that was difficult, but I liked it. As I sit here writing this review
Ryner Nash
Dec 11, 2016 Ryner Nash added it
Shelves: nonfiction
"Hole in My Life" by Jack Gantos is the story of his personal journey from a young aspiring writer to a criminal for smuggling drugs into the United States. Gantos' life is a hectic whirlwind of bad choices leading to his dream, becoming a well renowned and respected author. This autobiography shows how different perspectives can lead to different choices. For example, when Gantos was focused solely on making money, he made the choice to participate in a drug scandal which led to his imprisonmen ...more
Apr 07, 2013 Michelle rated it liked it
Name: Michelle Muro
Citation: Gantos, J. (2002). Hole in my life. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Genre: Informational
Award: Printz Honor
Format: Print
Selection Process: YALSA website


During the 1970s, all Jack Gantos wanted was to become a writer, a way into college, and a little adventure. However, the adventure he got changed his whole life. A drug dealer by the name of Rik offered him ten thousand dollars to sail a boat filled with two thousand pounds of hashish from St. Croix
Elaine Pelton
Apr 23, 2011 Elaine Pelton rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult, loss, writing
“I stood up and went downstairs. But I didn’t sleep. Hamilton had read my mind – I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just afraid of the punishment.”

17-year-old Jack Gantos wants to be a writer. However, he’s a little confused as how to go about really becoming one. He spends a lot of time drinking himself into a stupor, smoking pot, working, and cruising around in his car. When he realizes he has no way to afford the cost of college, he moves out to St. Croix to help his father with the family con
Nov 25, 2012 Gabriela rated it it was amazing
In this startling auto-biography author Jack Gantos recounts his time as a young man making careless mistakes. The book is beautifully written in a narrative fahion that never speaks down to it's reader. Gantos's account of his impressionable youth filled with misleadings is easily relatable to it's adolescent readers. Without ever regretting his decisions, Gantos instead teaches a valuable lesson to always learn and grow from everything you do. This book has heavy material that requires an olde ...more
Nick descisciolo
Feb 01, 2013 Nick descisciolo rated it it was amazing
the book "Hole in My Life" by Jack Gantos is a memoir. He wrote this book telling the story behind how he ended up in prison for a mistake that seemed harmless in the beginning.

the story takes place all over the eastern coast of the united states in the 1970's. The main character is Jack Gantos ( the narrator) who's friends rick, and Hamilton get him in trouble. Rick and Hamilton were both older grown men, both stuck up and stubborn. Hamilton was jacks sailing partner. when they got to there fir
Mariel Lopez
Sep 17, 2012 Mariel Lopez rated it liked it
The book “Hole in My Life” is about a teenage boy, Jack Gantos trying to figure out what his plans for the future will be. Throughout this journey he makes decisions that will affect his life in the long run. One of the most important was that he dropped out of college. He was planning on going to live with his parents, but before he left he wanted a road trip. He was inspired by Kerouc’s book “On the Road”, to just wanted to live it up and write about his experiences. His father’s company wasn’ ...more
Joshua Harms
Mar 26, 2013 Joshua Harms rated it really liked it
Hole in my Life is an immediately engaging young-adult autobiographical narrative that deals with common themes of regret and redemption in the uncommon settings of 1970s drug culture, race-revolutions, and drug smuggling. What makes this story even more compelling is that it’s the true account from an acclaimed children and young-adult author. This is a plotline that audiences would expect from fictional Hollywood—not the author of books like Rotten Ralph and Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of ...more
Jun 10, 2010 Alicia rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban, male, ahs-advise
Jack narrates his life as he makes his journey through court and prison system when he was just 21. He got into drugs, then drug-smuggling when he was forced to turn himself in. He describes his life in prison and how writing saved him.

After re-reading this a second time in preparation for his visit to our school, I realized how profound and mature the writing and content is. Gantos' writing is beautifully organized to capture the moments that mattered to him, shaped who he was, and decisions--
Feb 12, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it
Shannon Miranda
Biography Genre

This is the autobiography written by children’s author Jack Gantos. It covers only a few years of his life (late teenage years) but these years were a critical turning point in his life. It is an honest and sometimes funny (especially the comedy of errors on the boat) memoir about a decent kid who makes some poor choices and the consequences (jail time) that follows. There are also a few positive themes in this book such as his desire to graduate high school, become
Sam Brannstrom
Feb 24, 2013 Sam Brannstrom rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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My book selection 2 3 Apr 24, 2017 11:33AM  
Mrs. Anderson's E...: Hole in my Life 1 4 Mar 10, 2016 05:14PM  
What's The Name o...: true story about smuggling drugs across the sea in a ship? [s] 7 28 Jan 15, 2012 10:25PM  
Imprisonment's Positive Effects 1 13 Oct 18, 2011 02:00PM  
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Jack Gantos is an American author of children's books renowned for his portrayal of fictional Joey Pigza, a boy with ADHD, and many other well known characters such as Rotten Ralph, Jack Henry, Jack Gantos (memoirs) and others. Gantos has won a number of awards, including the Newbery, the Newbery Honor, the Scott O'Dell Award, the Printz Honor, and the Sibert Honor from the American Library Associ ...more
More about Jack Gantos...

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“Someone once said anyone can be great under rosy circumstances, but the true test of character is measured by how well a person makes decisions during difficult times.” 43 likes
“Since I was trying so hard to make books lead my life, I didn’t want to read them and then just put them back on the shelf and say, “good book,” as if I was patting a good dog. I wanted books to change me, and I wanted to write books that would change others.” 28 likes
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