Alison's Reviews > Hole in My Life

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
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's review
Jun 14, 2011

really liked it
Read in March, 2011

Jack Gantos tells the story of his arrest for drug smuggling and the events leading up to his arrest. On his own attending high school, and later in St. Croix, Jack makes some very bad decisions. Jack ends up serving time in a federal prison, but eventually honing his craft as a writer and shaping the rest of his life.
I wonder if Hole in my Life refers to the emptiness Jack experiences as a teenager. He seems to be a good kid, but doesn’t always make the best decisions. He was offered the opportunity to stay with a family in Florida to finish his senior year of high school, but is the worst boarder ever. He blasts his music at all hours and gets kicked out after vomiting all over the house after a drunken binge. At other times, he seems very mature and responsible. He moves into an apartment, maintains a job, and pays his rent. This is more responsibility than most high school seniors experience. Jack doesn’t write much about his mother or his siblings, but his father obviously played a very important role in his life. I wonder how Jack’s life would have been different had his parents not moved from Florida and he had been allowed to complete his education with their direct guidance. He has always known he wants to be a writer, and knows what he needs to do to get there eventually, but just can’t seem to do it immediately. When the opportunity for Jack to make enough money to attend college arises, he takes it. Unfortunately, it involves smuggling hash into the U.S. Jack clearly knows this is wrong, and goes along with the plan anyway. On the trip from St. Croix to New York, Jack learns about himself and others, as he observes the eccentric Hamilton who is helping him captain the ship. They appear to have gotten away with the plan, selling nearly all the hash before they are apprehended. It is later revealed that the ship had been under surveillance for almost the entire trip. The ship’s log was seized, and in it Jack’s own condemning words. I’m a little surprised Jack continued to write after this damning experience. He maintains a journal in prison, written between the lines of The Brothers Karamazov. He documents his daily life in prison and the horrors others experienced. Jack was extremely fortunate to get a job as an x-ray tech early in his sentence, providing him with a private cell in the hospital wing. With a little help from his caseworker, Jack is accepted into college and released. I presume Jack had a much easier time in prison and getting out than most criminals. Jack goes on to college, and becomes an accomplished children’s book author. I can see some of the choices Jack made as a young adult reflected in his writing, especially in the adult characters in the Joey Pigza books. Gantos’ description of Joey’s alcoholic father and his eccentric (crazy and mean?) grandmother echo his theme that bad decisions do not make a person bad.
I think this book would appeal to both male and female young adults. The looming doom and the adventure that leads up to it would keep readers involved in the story, wanting to find out what happens to Jack until the very end.

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