Good Behavior

Good Behavior

3.8 5
by Nathan L. Henry

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Jailed at age sixteen for armed robbery, Nathan Henry was the kind of teenager most parents and teachers have nightmares about. His crime was the culmination of a life lived on the edge: guns and drugs, sex and violence, all set against the ordinary backdrop of a one-stop light town in rural Indiana. Nate's personal history is both disturbing and fascinating. A


Jailed at age sixteen for armed robbery, Nathan Henry was the kind of teenager most parents and teachers have nightmares about. His crime was the culmination of a life lived on the edge: guns and drugs, sex and violence, all set against the ordinary backdrop of a one-stop light town in rural Indiana. Nate's personal history is both disturbing and fascinating. A rough childhood becomes an adolescence full of half-realized violent fantasies that slowly build to the breaking point. But these scenes alternate with chapters about Nate's time in jail, where through reading and reflection he comes to see that his life can be different from all he's known up to this point.

Nathan's story of his year in jail and the life that led him there combine to create a powerful portrait of an American youth gone bad—and a moving story of redemption.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As hard-hitting as Jack Gantos's Hole in My Life, this memoir of a teenager's year in jail offers insight into a mind obsessed with violence. First-time author Henry alternates explicit memories of his troubled childhood in a house full of guns with scenes inside an Illinois county jail, where the 16-year-old has plenty of time to ponder the events leading to his act of armed robbery and subsequent arrest. The portrait of Nathan's youth is not for the fainthearted. His seeming lack of conscience as he torments animals and engages in other forms of cruelty are disturbing, yet he is shown to be as much a victim as a villain; the influence of Nathan's abusive, unpredictable father looms over the book. Moments when Nathan expresses remorse ("I would eventually, many years after all this, acquire a lot of cats... and I would lavish them with affection.... I would over identify with them, to compensate for what horrors I visited upon the animal kingdom when I was young") foreshadow his repentance. Witnessing Nathan's emotional journey is a painful but enlightening experience that won't easily be forgotten. Ages 14-up. (July)
VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Nate Henry, sixteen, assumes his armed robbery arrest (again) means juvenile detention, but instead he is arraigned as an adult and sent to county jail to await trial. Although his life has featured unbridled viciousness and violence, incarceration among hard-core adult criminals in the first system he cannot manipulate frightens Nate into reconsidering his past. Now thirty-two, Nate narrates this memoir as if sixteen, describing the numerous negative influences and situations that inexorably led to his arrest. Descriptions are detailed and gripping, albeit sadly unexceptional, and naturally contain crude language and situations. However, numerous statements, such as, "I still struggle with a mystified half-grasp of the complexities of human motivation," resemble an adult more than an imprisoned teen. Moreover, as the novel is primarily remembrances, they eventually sound similar and become prolonged, as author analyses or commentary about them is missing. Providing more omitted information between scenarios would have added balance and needed connections. Nate credits prison's unforgiving structure and reading, which introduced worlds very different from his, with prompting reflection upon his current life and the one he ultimately desired, facilitating his conversion from delinquency. Unfortunately, achieving this transformation is also only described, not explained, limiting readers' application. The novel jumps from Nate's prison release to two years hence, mentioning marriage and implied success, but tantalizingly omitting all other current lifestyle details. Nate's story is interesting, but its missing explanations, especially his end circumstances, will frustrate detail-oriented readers. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett
Children's Literature - Amanda MacGregor
Readers are introduced to Nate Henry when he is sixteen and, having just committed armed robbery, in jail. This memoir looks back at the events that led him here. Henry recounts his childhood with his awful, racist thug of a father. His father is angry, violent, and obsessed with weapons, and Henry grew up in his image. Through his teen years, Henry slashes tires, shoots out streetlights, and beats up kids. He dreams of committing bigger crimes, like murder or torture. A perpetual outsider, Henry embraces this status and works hard to shock those around him and get into trouble. He eventually sets fire to his school and decides to drive out west to murder his ex-girlfriend. He is arrested for armed robbery before he can complete his mission. The narrative jumps between his past and his present situation in jail. This technique makes it immediately clear just how Henry ended up so troubled and in jail at a young age. While in jail, he reads a lot, which opens a whole new world of intellect and questioning. He asks major philosophical questions and, after a year with nothing to do but think, is determined to make better choices. Rougher than Jack Gantos's Hole in My Life, Henry's memoir is filled with curse words and graphic scenes, both of sex and violence. The writing is uneven, and the author spends too much time detailing events from the past, which all start to sound alike. An epilogue, showing Henry two years after jail, feels awkwardly tacked on. There is no doubt that Henry's story is an interesting, if not unique, one. The content is high interest, and teens struggling to make better choices may appreciate the message that the future does not have to be the same as the past. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—In this gritty memoir, Henry alternates chapters between his childhood and his 16th year, which he spends locked up in Paradise County Jail, IL. His violent father's obsession with guns; paranoid fantasies of death, dismemberment, and destruction; and readiness to share details of those fantasies with his young son paved the way for Henry's fearful and angry acting out (yet he does not use them as an excuse). After the boy did a stint in a behavioral-health rehabilitation center, with no explanation of medication protocol upon release, armed robbery seemed inevitable. Reading and questioning the nature of existence in his cell leads Henry to an awakening and awareness of his life and future desires. An epilogue explains that two years later he is married and happy—presumably out of the life that led him to trouble. The abrupt ending is a disappointment, and readers will be left with many questions. Lots of swearing, violent fantasies, and descriptions of sexual experiences make this book most appropriate for older teens. There is certainly a place for memoirs of incarcerated Caucasian teens, and youth in detention centers (as well as elsewhere) around the country will want to read this book.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.10(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Nate Henry is now 32 and lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and several cats. He works at a medical office. This is his first book.

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Good Behavior 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book is very well written. It keeps the reader involved with the story. I think it could be good for young people to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
yes-i-read-wierd-books More than 1 year ago
Good Behavior is the story of Nathan's year of jail with alternating chapters telling of his childhood that led to his behaviors. I really couldn't put the boook down for several reasons. 1) It was interesting to have an inside look of what prison must be like. 2)I enjoyed the way Nathan narrated the story. 3) Some stories of his childhood and teen years left it tough to sleep. It's a cool book if you really like things like that, but beware those of a faint-heart
Anonymous More than 1 year ago