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Hole in My Life

Hole in My Life

4.3 118
by Jack Gantos

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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


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 agents caught up with them. For his part in the conspiracy, Gantos was sentenced to serve up to six years in prison.

In Hole in My Life, this prizewinning author of over thirty books for young people confronts the period of struggle and confinement that marked the end of his own youth. On the surface, the narrative tumbles from one crazed moment to the next as Gantos pieces together the story of his restless final year of high school, his short-lived career as a criminal, and his time in prison. But running just beneath the action is the story of how Gantos – once he was locked up in a small, yellow-walled cell – moved from wanting to be a writer to writing, and how dedicating himself more fully to the thing he most wanted to do helped him endure and ultimately overcome the worst experience of his life. This title has Common Core connections.

Hole in My Life is a 2003 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Gantos uses the same bold honesty found in his fiction to offer a riveting autobiographical account of his teen years [when he agreed to help smuggle hashish from Florida to New York and wound up in jail]," PW said. "It will leave readers emotionally exhausted and a little wiser." Ages 12-up. (Sept.) n Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Gantos, successful author of books for children and young adults, ventures outside his accustomed venue with this autobiographical work. At the age of nineteen, Gantos helped to smuggle one ton of hashish from St. Croix to New York City, and as a result of being caught, served two years of imprisonment in a federal penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky. Throughout the first few chapters, the saga seems an extension of the Jack Henry stories. The tone soon changes, however, from the comical eccentricity of Gantos's later teenage years to the tension and paranoia of drug smuggling, and finally the fear and despair of prison life. The reader suffers through each agonizing and vulnerable moment until Jack is released and starts a new life, fulfilling his dream of becoming a writer. Children of the sixties, whose youthful indiscretions turned, or nearly turned, into more disasters, will read this book cover-to-cover without stopping. Even young readers without relevant experience will find their hearts racing and their blood pressure rising as the frightening events of his story unfold. Gantos's honesty and directness in describing the whole experience make reading this book a gut-wrenching experience. Gritty details make it a better fit for older high school students and adults, and teachers who have used Gantos's previous books will find it especially intriguing. (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal). James Blasingame
When Jack Gantos was 20 years old, he wanted to go to college, but his grades in high school had not been good enough. He had desperately longed to be a writer since a very young age, but he couldn't seem to find anything important to write about. He was living in the Virgin Islands when an acquaintance proposed a business venture. Rik had 2,000 pounds of hash that needed to be transported to the US, and he wanted Gantos to help drive the boat. For participating in this enterprise, he would be paid $10,000. The danger and personal risk involved never even occurred to Gantos. All he could see was the means to attend a good college. When they were caught, Gantos was sentenced to prison. Ironically, prison is what enabled him to finally pursue his dream of becoming an author. He finally had the patience to write, but the prison would not allow him to keep a journal. He circumvented this restriction by recording his thoughts in the space between the lines of The Brothers Karamozov. Every aspiring writer should read Gantos' book. It is a testament to the creative potential that exists in everyone's life. Although Gantos' experience in prison shaped him as an author as well as a man, it did not define his character. Every one of his actions following his arrest was an attempt to create a distance between himself and the criminal life. While in prison, he quit doing drugs, began to write, and ultimately applied to and was accepted into college. Hole in My Life is a fascinating and surprising look at the life of the man who has given us Rotten Ralph and the Joey Pigza books, among others. KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students,advanced students, and adults. 2002, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 200p. illus., Ages 15 to adult.
—Heather Lisowski
School Library Journal
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 family, now in St. Croix, where he accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash to New York. He and his colleagues were caught, and as it turns out, he was in more trouble than he anticipated. Sent to federal prison for up to six years, Gantos landed a job in the hospital section, a post that protected him from his fellow inmates, yet allowed him to witness prison culture firsthand. Much of the action in this memoir-some of it quite raw and harsh-will be riveting to teen readers. However, the book's real strength lies in the window it gives into the mind of an adolescent without strong family support and living in the easy drug culture of the 1970s. Gantos looks for role models and guidance in the pages of the books he is reading, and his drive to be a writer and desire to go to college ultimately save him.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"We didn't so much arrive at our destinations as aim and crash into them like kamikaze yachtsmen." So Gantos describes himself as a 20-year-old about to be arrested and imprisoned for smuggling two thousand pounds of hashish from St. Croix to New York City. Young Jack seems to share with his fictional characters-Joey Pigza and Jack Henry-a blithe disregard for the consequences of wild behavior. Readers follow him from a seedy motel run by the great-great-granddaughter of Davy Crockett to a Keystone Kops adventure on the sea, from a madcap escape from FBI and Treasury agents to his arrest and trial, represented by his lawyer, Al E. Newman. This true tale of the worst year in the author's life will be a big surprise for his many fans. Gantos has the storyteller's gift of a spare prose style and a flair for the vivid simile: Davy has "brown wrinkled skin like a well-used pirate map"; a prisoner he met was "nervous as a dragonfly"; another strutted "like a bowlegged bulldog." This is a story of mistakes, dues, redemption, and finally success at what he always wanted to do: write books. The explicit descriptions of drug use and prison violence make this a work for older readers. Not the usual "How I Became A Writer" treatise, it is an honest, utterly compelling, and life-affirming chronicle of a personal journey for older teens and adults.
From the Publisher

“A memoir, by turns harrowing and hilarious, about a huge mistake.” —Miami Herald

“His account is remarkably free of both self-pity and self-censorship. . . . This is a tale of courage and redemption, proving that a bad start in life does not have to lead to a bad life story.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Gantos really is Everyman, but an Everyman who has landed himself into a deeper pit than most. What separates Gantos is the determination that took him out of his dreams and into a successful life as a writer. Those writerly skills are in full evidence here, in this thoughtful and provocative memoir as valuable to those who have never heard of Gantos as to those who have read all of his books.” —Hyde Park Review of Books

“The ultimate cautionary tale.” —Smithsonian

“This true tale of the worst year in the author's life will be a big surprise for his many fans. . . .This is a story of mistakes, dues, redemption, and finally success at what he always wanted to do: write books.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Hole in my Life

By Jack Gantos

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2002 Jack Gantos
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-70610-4


look straight ahead

The prisoner in the photograph is me. The ID number is mine. The photo was taken in 1972 at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Kentucky. I was twenty-one years old and had been locked up for a year already—the bleakest year of my life—and I had more time ahead of me.

At the time this picture was taken I weighed 125 pounds. When I look at my face in the photo I see nothing but the pocked mask I was hiding behind. I parted my hair down the middle and grew a mustache in order to look older and tougher, and with the greasy prison diet (salted chicken gizzards in a larded gravy, chicken wings with oily cheese sauce, deep-fried chicken necks), and the stress, and the troubled dreams of capture and release, there was no controlling the acne. I was overmatched.

I might have been slight—but I was smart and cagey. I managed to avoid a lot of trouble because I knew how to blend in and generally sift through the days unnoticed by men who spent the majority of their time looking to inflict pain on others. I called these men "skulls" and they were freaks for violence. Here we were, all of us living in constant, pissy misery, and instead of trying to feel more human, more free and unchained in their hearts by simply respecting one another and getting along, many of the men found cruel and menacing ways to make each day a walk through a tunnel of fear for others.

Fear of being a target of irrational violence haunted me day and night. The constant tempo of that violence pulsed throughout my body and made me feel small, and weak, and cowardly. But no matter how big you were, there was no preventing the brutality. I had seen the results of violence so often—with guys hauling off and smashing someone's face with their fists or with a metal tool, a baseball bat, a rock—and all for no other reason than some imagined offense or to establish a reputation for savagery. When I lived and worked in the prison hospital—especially after I had become the X-ray technician—I was part of an emergency medical response team. I was called on day and night to X-ray all types of ugly wounds to see if the bones behind the bruised or bleeding flesh had been cracked, chipped, or broken. As we examined them, the patients would be telling the guards, "I didn't even know the guy" or (my greatest fear) "I never heard 'em, never saw 'em."

It was this lottery of violence that haunted me. Your number could come up anywhere, anytime—in the dark of night while you slept in a dormitory with a hundred other men, or in full daylight on the exercise field while you strolled in the sun. Once, in the cafeteria line, standing directly next to a guard, I watched a skinny black kid stab some other "blood" with a dinner fork. He drove it into the guy's collarbone so deep the doctor had to remove it with a pair of surgical pliers. AIDS wasn't a factor then. The blood that sprayed over the food trays was wiped off by the line workers and they kept spooning up our chow.

I wasn't raised around this level of violence. I wasn't prepared for it, and I've never forgotten it. Even now, when walking some of Boston's meaner streets, I find myself moving like a knife, carving my way around people, cutting myself out of their picture and leaving nothing of myself behind but a hole.

Like most kids, I was aware that the world was filled with dangerous people, yet I wasn't certain I could always spot them coming. My dad, however, was a deadeye when it came to spotting the outlaw class. He had never been in prison, but he always seemed to know who had spent time in the "big house" or who was headed down that path.

In his own way he tried to warn me about going in their direction. When I was young, he would drive the family from Florida back to our hometown in western Pennsylvania to visit relatives. Once there, he'd troll the streets with me in our big Buick and point to guys he knew and tell me something wicked, or weird, or secret about them. "He killed a man with a pitchfork," Dad would say, nodding slyly toward some hulking farmer in bib overalls. "Look at his hands. He's a strong SOB—could strangle the life out of a cow."

Or Dad would point to a woman. "She had a kid when she was in ninth grade and sold it to a neighbor." He knew it all. "He burned down a barn. He shot a cop. He robbed a bank." Dad went on and on. I was always surprised at how many people from such a small town had been in prison. And I was really surprised that after committing such despicable acts they were back out on the street. They were a scary-looking lot, misshapen, studded with warts and moles, and I was glad we were in the car. But not for long. He'd take me to the Elks Club, or the Am-Vets hall, or Hecla Gun Club in order to get up close and personal with some of the criminal class. He'd order a beer and get me a Coke and some sort of food treat that came out of a gallon pickle jar of beet-red vinegar—a hardboiled egg, or a swatch of pig's skin, or a hunk of kielbasa. Everything smelled like a biology specimen, and with the first bite the red juice spurted out and ran down my chin. I must have looked like I'd split my lip in a bar brawl. Then, once we were settled, Dad would continue to point out the criminals, all the while using his Irish whisper, which could be heard in the next town over. He pointed out bank robbers, church robbers, car thieves, and a shadowy "second floor" man, known for snatching jewelry from the bedrooms of sleeping homeowners. I began to imagine the entire town was some sort of bizarre experimental prison camp without walls—a punishment center where criminals were sentenced to living only with other criminals.

Dad snapped his fingers. "These folks zigged when the rest of the world zagged. And once you cross that line, there's no coming back. Mark my words."

All this was my father's way of letting me know he was in the know—he had the dirt on everyone, and it was the dirt that made them interesting. At the same time he made it clear they were damaged goods and could never come clean again. Dad's keen eye for spotting criminals of all stripes was impressive. But it wasn't perfect. He never had me pegged for being one of them.

Ironically, in spite of all the fear and remorse and self-loathing, being locked up in prison is where I fully realized I had to change my life for the better, and in one significant way I did. It is where I went from thinking about becoming a writer, to writing. I began to write stories—secret stories about myself and the restless men around me. While among them, I may have feigned disinterest, but like my father I watched them closely and listened whenever they spoke. Then back in my cell I would sit on the edge of my bunk with my journal spread open across my knees and try to capture their stories with my own words. For some paranoid reason the warden would not allow us to keep journals. He probably didn't want the level of violence and sex among both prisoners and guards to be documented. My secret journal was an old hardback copy of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky, in which I spent hours writing in a tiny script between the tightly printed lines. I kept the book like a Gideons' Bible on top of my locker and, as far as I know, its true purpose was never discovered.

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. I certainly believe this to be true. I made a lot of mistakes, and went to jail, but I wasn't on the road to ruin like everybody said. While I was locked up, I pulled myself together and made some good decisions.

Like any book about mistakes and redemption (Oscar Wilde's De Profundis is my favorite), the mistakes are far more interesting to read about (and write about)—so I'll start with where I think I went around the bend.



I was nineteen, still stuck in high school, and I wasn't living at home. I had unlimited freedom. No supervision whatsoever. I had spending money. I had a fast car. I had a fake ID. My entire year was a grand balancing act between doing what I wanted and doing what I should, and being who I was while inventing who I wanted to be: a writer with something important to say.

During my junior year my parents had moved the family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. My dad, who had a lifelong habit of switching jobs almost every year, took a position as a construction superintendent rebuilding a beachfront hotel and casino. My mom and my older sister were all for it; my younger brothers were ready to live like surfer boys. It sounded like a big party to me. I turned in my books, packed my bags, and said farewell to my few friends and teachers at Sunrise High School without shedding a tear. Since I had already gone to nine different schools, I was skilled at being a professional acquaintance. I didn't have a problem with saying good-bye to old friends and walking away forever. On the plane down to Puerto Rico I figured I'd never see them again, and I'm sure they thought the same of me. New friends were always around the corner.

I didn't speak Spanish so I couldn't go to the public schools in San Juan, and since my parents didn't have the money for private school we decided it would be best for me to just go to work. My dad fixed me up with the electrical subcontractor on his construction project, and right away I found myself wiring hotel rooms. The money was good. Half of the existing hotel was shut down while we added two new floors. A lot of the workers were from the States and one of the perks of the job was that they were given hotel rooms to live in. I was, too. This was ideal. I had privacy. I had my own TV. I even had maid service—didn't have to make a bed or pick a wet towel off the floor for half a year. Plus, my parents lived in an apartment a block away. Each evening after I showered in my hotel room, I would carry my dirty laundry down the street where I joined the family for dinner. Afterward, I'd go back to the hotel with clean laundry and play cards with the other electrical workers who lived down the hall. They were nice older guys who flew in from Miami every week to make fast money working double shifts. They let me drink a little, but not too much. And they let me lose a little, but not too much. On the weekends they'd fly home and I'd drink a little too much and wander around the tourist zones.

I'd go to the casinos at the El San Juan and Americana. I'd imagine I was James Bond meeting beautiful older women at the roulette tables and walking arm in arm up to their rooms where something dangerously exotic might happen. But the only arm I managed to warm up was on the slot machines. I loved playing them. The flashing lights and the sound of the gears spinning and the wild thrill of the jingling coins pouring into the metal pay-tray and the waitresses dressed in skimpy outfits bringing me free drinks for good tips was a blast. And if I lost too much I'd hop up and walk for an hour down the beach and look out at the stars and listen to the surf and inhale the whole world's briny smell rising from the ocean I loved. Then it never felt as if I had lost. And once, I had won so much I stood on the beach in the moonlight skipping silver quarters across the calm water as the little waves pawed the shore.

But after a while, I began to think of school again. Besides, I knew nothing about electricity and nearly electrocuted myself several times. After I had melted my third pair of Klein sidecutters and scorched a number of body parts while working on live wires, I admitted that electrical work was not in my future and I made the decision to get my high school diploma. After six months on the job I had saved enough money to afford a private school. But I couldn't get in. My grades had always been mediocre, and given that I had never finished eleventh grade, the private schools in San Juan wouldn't accept me as a senior. The thought of repeating eleventh grade was too depressing. I talked to my parents and they arranged for me to return to my cast-off school back in Florida and live with a family who had an extra room. My parents thought this was the best opportunity for me. I had my savings and had never been much trouble, so they must have reasoned it was an opportunity for me to spread my wings and make something of myself. I packed my bags, said good-bye to my family, and returned to Fort Lauderdale. When I reenrolled as a senior at Sunrise High, no one asked about the second half of my junior year, and I didn't volunteer any information.

It turned out that the people my dad arranged for me to live with—the Bacon family—were desperate for extra cash. My dad had met Fred Bacon while at an Elks Club benefit to help needy kids. The Bacons had purchased a new house with a swimming pool, had two new cars, and were raising two preschool kids, all on an income selling mail-order prosthetic limbs out of their garage—which looked like a morgue of plastic parts. Mr. and Mrs. Bacon had limb disabilities themselves—he with a missing arm and she without a left foot—and so were well suited for their business.

"Can't make a dime," Mr. Bacon said one night after a few beers. He yanked off his flexible rubber arm and waved it overhead like a giant bug antenna. "All these old people come down here with prosthetics that look like something whittled out of a baseball bat. You'd think they would want something snazzy-looking. But no. They're just happy to be alive. In the meantime, we're starving."

So my rental money was welcome. Plus, with my new grocery store job at Winn-Dixie I was always bringing home bags full of dented cans, crushed boxes of cereal, half-open packages of dried beans and rice, and frozen food with freezer burn. The Bacon family didn't mind the misfit food, but soon they found out I was the greater misfit. It took them about six weeks to realize I was a live-in party crasher. After having my own hotel room in San Juan, I wasn't ready to live with other people. I'd go out drinking with my friend Will Doyle, and afterward I'd come home late and play my stereo at full volume, smell up the house with cigarette smoke, and make long distance phone calls on the Bacons' bill. I kept drinking more and more until I discovered I could drink lots of beer. Nearly a case of it in a sitting. Unfortunately I was also in the process of discovering I had no tolerance for that much alcohol and I always became blind drunk and ferociously ill, spending almost every night loudly heaving my guts out in the toilet while begging God for mercy. I was a mess.

After one especially robust night of drinking with Will, I stumbled home, crawled up the sidewalk, stabbed my key in the front door, let myself in, and power barfed all over the living room. After I sloshed blindly through that mess on all fours, I splattered the bathroom, my bedroom, the bathroom again, my bedroom again, until I passed out in the bathroom with my arms draped around the toilet and my head on the cool rim of the bowl.

When I came to the next afternoon, after the carpet cleaners had finished their work, I was summoned into the kitchen, which had been closed off with plastic sheeting and heavily sprayed with institutional-strength air freshener. I was promptly informed that I had to pack my bags and be out of their lives in an hour. Mr. Bacon tapped on the face of his watch—with his flexible prosthetic finger—to show that he meant business. I didn't debate their judgment of me as "an immature, spoiled brat who needed a major butt-kicking in order to straighten up." I didn't have time to defend myself. I suddenly felt sick all over again.

"Excuse me," I belched, and quickly covered my mouth with both hands, nodded my agreement to their assessment of my character, and ran down the hall to the bathroom.

Mrs. Bacon limped behind me yelling, "Don't you dare soil my carpet again!"

I didn't. But I threw up something so harshly acidic it left me with canker sores on the inside of my mouth.

As I stumbled out of the house, Mr. Bacon hollered out one final warning: "Keep this up and you'll fall flat on your ass."

I spit up on the grass.


Excerpted from Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos. Copyright © 2002 Jack Gantos. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

Jack was raised in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack's writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister's diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers' lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.

While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack's career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children's books and began to teach courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He developed the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book. Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers’ lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.  While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack’s career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children’s books and began to teach courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He developed the master’s degree program in children’s book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Hole in My Life 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 118 reviews.
Timi8 More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos expresses his memoir, a true, harrowing tale riddled with comedic and despairing moments of how he came to be a successful writer in his latest book, Hole in My Life. An autobiography of sorts, this book retells the woes and humorous events of a student turned federal criminal, then into a successful writer. These stories are plentiful and Jack Gantos expresses them in full candor, without leaving out any details, leaving the reader satisfied but hungry for more. The story of this man's life so far is almost too abstract to be able to imagine but yet, while reading this book you feel sucked in; as though you are out there, on the sailing vessel, on the way to New York with two thousand pounds of hashish in the hull and a naked British man named Hamilton on deck. Gantos displays an oxymoron of themes in his book. Knowing the end of his memoir at the beginning foreshadows his humorous, adolescent, and even occasionally disgusting ventures by the unfortunate ending. A stylistic genius, Gantos writes so that one can imagine themselves right next to him throughout his tales. If this book could be described in one or two words, one would most likely use "real". This is so because it is the real occurrence of a student who became a drug runner in a series of events. It is the "real" account of a writer. Some may see or believe Gantos as an ex-con failure but Gantos became a successful writer in the end; the title he had been attempting to reach since his most adolescent times.
cburn12 More than 1 year ago
In the book "A Hole in My Life" Jack Gantos shows his ability to cut right to the point. He has no fear of telling his tragic life story. He is honest with what he did and you have to respect him for that. His experiences made him a better writer and person. Obviously he regrets what he did, but in the end it helped his career. He shows his ability to make the most out of any situation in life. He persevered, worked hard, and learned from his mistakes. He shows great courage in coming out and telling his story. He turned it into a great book and gave a great example of what can happen to you when you get mixed up with the wrong people. He was just a kid, but he committed a major crime and had to pay the price. The story of how a young man struggles with high school, moving around the country, avoiding drugs, and trying to become a writer will capture your attention and then leave you shocked. As Jack moved to Saint Croix with his family, he got mixed up with a couple wrong guys. He ends up taking a job sailing 2,000 pounds of hashish to New York. As he makes the journey with the insane naked British man, he is unaware of what is going on around him. The plan would have worked if not for one aspect. As they get to New York and he gets his money, Jack is soon arrested and sent to federal prison. It is there where he truly starts to become a writer. The book shows a period of time in his life where Jack went from good, to bad, to back on the right track. Readers of this book will not be able to put it down. The honest memoir of Jack Gantos left me shocked but satisfied. His ability to add humor into the very real story makes it interesting and fun to read. Gantos is a great writer and I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a suspense filled true story. He puts his experiences on the line and turned his life around and made the most of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this a kids book or not?
qmQM More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos wanted to be a writer ever since he read his sister's diary and realized how uncreative, tedious and dull it was. He thought that he could write better than what he had read so, he started journaling himself. It became a record that he kept daily, and he soon recognized the talent that he had in his writing. He later went on to be very successful in this hobby of his, but that's not to say he didn't come across some speed bumps on his journey. In his early years, Jack didn't have the smoothest upbringing. His family was constantly going from place to place, moving from house to house. As a boy, he moved to nearly 10 different homes by his senior year in high school. This was when he decided that he was done with his schooling. Unfortunately, skipping college and striving to be a successful writer was harder than he had once thought. Forgoing college was his only choice because he had no money and no way to make any.or so he thought. He then found a way to make a lot of money and fast. The only disadvantage was that smuggling drugs was very much illegal and he could go to federal prison if he were caught.which is exactly what happened. Hole in My Life is an exciting memoir that keeps the reader interested from his childhood all the way to the time he spent in prison. Gantos includes entries from his very own diary, and goes into great detail making the readers feel as if they are experiencing the adventure themselves.
walt_johnston More than 1 year ago
Hole in My Life starts off with a fairly normal family that is moving out of the states. When the main character, Jack, who is also the author, was in the middle of his 11th grade year he dropped out. When he decides that it would be better for him to go to school, rather than do construction work, his family sends him back to have his senior year with different family in the states. Living with his new family, the Bacons, doesn't go over very well, however, as he would rather party and drink than obey the rules of the family. He is then kicked out and sent to live on his own once again. After a few more incidents he decides to go live with his family on the island St. Croix. This is what led to his getting arrested. When he was offered $10,000 to smuggle drugs into America, he jumped at the chance because he was going to use the money to go to college, but he ends up getting arrested by the Feds, which obviously he never thought would happen. This book is a well-written memoir, a part in this man's life he wishes never happened, the "hole" in his life. There honestly isn't much to criticize, it is very well written and keeps your interest throughout the entire book. It keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wonder whether or not the right decision will be made. You may think his writing can be bland at some points, but this is overcome by a blend of great writing, storytelling, and that constant thought you have in the back of your mind telling you that this was real, that he actually lived this. It would be easy to say the choices he made were wrong, but the way he describes it and writes about it you soon realize that all he really wanted was college and to become a good successful writer. Unfortunately, he made, as we all do, bad choices that resulted in possibly, one of the worst possible outcome. It is a very well written book with a style of rough dry humor about tough situations; he is able to laugh at his downfalls in life, which is one of the reasons that makes this book so good. He gives you the examples of what he has done and casually laughs them off, while making it seem horrible enough that the reader never attempts to do any of these things. As a young adult novel, I think it is more of a "what not to do" memoir than an entertaining one, it literally is the "hole" in his life, the part of his life he wants to forget. If you go to his website and read his bio, it says nothing of his jail sentence or even his time on St. Croix, only of his achievements. It is a very good story by an extremely skilled writer that makes for an entertaining book and one definitely worth the $8 and few hours you will spend reading it. It is the first memoir that I have read, but if the others out there are anything like this, it might be a genre I pick up more often.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ROSEBUDD More than 1 year ago
my gradson had to read it for summer ready for school. he liked it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Let me be the first to say this books unbelievable. Drug smuggling, for real? Our school has to read this for summer reading for high school next year. I will be the first to say this book is not appropriate for kids under 15. There are cuss words and a lot of bad scenes. Dead end in Norvelt was better than this. My dad is a former police officer and dealt with people like this. This is not a good book. On the other hand, it teaches us what not to do in life! Not a good book, again, for children under 15.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
      There are multiple characteristics the book Hole in My Life has that make it more enjoyable to read. One is that the book uses very vivid sensory language and shows the reader what a criminal life is like instead of telling them. Jack makes you picture how menacing and intimidating all aspects of prison were. Also, Jack does a really good job creating the theme throughout the book. The theme is that you that you should try to get a job and finish school so you can make something of yourself.       I would encourage anyone who enjoys reading a nonfiction book to read this. It truly shows what life is like for a criminal and makes you realize that it is a horrible life to live. This book could really give you a new outlook on what life would be like if you were to be put in jail. That is why I encourage the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Basic Information • Genre: Young Adult • Title: Hole In My Life • Author: Jack Gantos • Setting: St. Croix, To Hamilton’s Ship, Then to New York City • Theme: Paranoia • Part of a series: No, it’s just a regular old’ Book Short, General Synopsis • Main Character: Jack Gantos • Something Unique: Jack faces real life battles such as drug use, unlawful use of firearms, and even JAILTIME. Likes/Dislikes • I like the way jack actually tells a real life story and how he endured the situation he was in. • I don’t dislike anything about this book it’s a truly amazing book to read if you are into young adult books and almost got away with it type stories. Writer’s style • The writers style is kind of unique instead of him using clues to give away the theme away he simply states how scared he is to be caught and how paranoid he gets while smuggling the hashish. Conclusion • Overall this is a very good book to read its basically a biography of the things that happened to a 20 year old man seeking money for college and he was offered $10,000 to help smuggle hashish from St. Croix into New York City.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this book appropriate for a 12 year old?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read "dead end in norvelt" for a book report and ibam eager to read MORE books by Jack Gantos.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
plumpkindeep More than 1 year ago
This is a good book, not boring at all. It helps you know life has a second chance. Funny about his experience in jail but also serious because he felt lonly. Quick and easy read, you wont wanna stop reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mohmohmoh More than 1 year ago
"Hole in my life" by Jack Gantos is an incredible book that talks about the epic struggles of a young adult trying to find his way in life, of redemption, and getting his life straight. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys thrillers or introspective books. When Jack Gantos came to my school, he talked about how this was the hardest book he has ever had to write, but it is also a tough one to put down. This book balances both sharing his emotions and describing his surroundings. His writing style fits this story perfectly as he goes through this story of thrills and comedy. As you are captivated in the first few pages you will embark on an epic journey along side Gantos and go through the emotional roller coaster ride that is "Hole in My Life". As I finished this book I didn't even have the dreaded feeling that is post book letdown. I just turned the last page to realize that it was over
JOHN14 More than 1 year ago
"Hole in my life" By: Jack Gantos Are you looking for a book that has heart, or maybe one that has intensity, or one that has hysterical laughs and epic heartbreaks? One that you will not want to put down; well listen up. The story "Hole in my life" by Jack Gantos is an amazing book for anyone whether you're12 or 120 this book will steal your soul with awesomeness. The idea of a good kid that gets involved in bad things is something we can all relate to. Jacks predicament only adds to the feeling when he is caught between a rock and a hard place. He decides to hop on a ship carrying 2,000lbs of hash from St. Croix to New York, but the unthinkable happens. Jack is now faced with a problem of a lifetime. A problem we can all learn from. Some things I learned from this book are, redemption is possible, shame hurts but is healed, please don't smoke pot, and the last most important lesson you can get from this is to learn from your mistakes. As this is a life lesson that we should all take away from this book. I don't care who you are, because you could be Hitler or Napoleon and still love this book. The way he throws his whole existence in to the book captivates the mind and holds on relentlessly. Trust me; you will not want to put it down. Once you've finished the book you will have two feelings, either holy crap I want to read it again, or holy crap, this was as rad as a movie starring John Travolta in his dramatic role as Jack. But maybe you don't like John Travolta, but you get my point. As I read this I thought wow! This happened to an actual teenager just like me, and this could've happened to anyone. It could've happened to you, and that's what makes this book unique and incredible
TibbLe14 More than 1 year ago
In the middle of his senior year, Jack Gantos decides to move away from his parents in San Juan to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and starts to focus on his dream of writing. However, after getting kicked out of a family friend's house, Jack has to find a way to support himself financially and still have enough to pay for a college education, finding out later it was harder than it looks. When he moves back in with his parents in St. Croix, his friend Rik tells him of a job that can get him the tuition money quickly, so he jumps right at it, soon finding out that this one ton hash smuggle could possibly put him in jail for years to come. Jack's superb way of describing his personal experience as an innocent young adult in real life situations makes you feel as if you are in his footsteps. Every description of each setting laid out a landscape in your mind, and the adrenaline-rushing action made your heart pound in fear and kept you on the edge of your seat. Although "Hole in My Life" is an action-packed memoir of his journey to federal prison, Jack Gantos made sure that this book provided a message to the readers. From an ex-con who showed no potential in the professional field of writing to becoming a prestigious author in both children and adult novels, Jack shows that no matter what situation you're put through, always follow your dreams. I had the chance to meet Jack Gantos in person, and he is truly following his dream. If you enjoy reading true life stories with inspiring messages that will stay with you forever, then I would recommend you read this book. "You - as a reader - may be finished with a book.but the book may not be finished with you." -Jack Gantos
Jones__Candler More than 1 year ago
As a bit of a perpetual yet reluctant reader because of school work, I rarely get excited about required reading in a class. I had the same feeling when my English teacher told us we were going to begin reading "Hole in My Life." I wasn't looking forward to it. Even when I began reading the memoir, I was simply glancing over the words; not taking in any real content. However, after the first few pages, my interest in Gantos' story grew immensely. In an adventure of laughter, excitement, and thrills, Jack Gantos describes his fourteen-month sentence in federal prison after smuggling hash into New York. While reading, you really feel as though Gantos himself is talking right to your face about the events. You also acknowledge the fact that Gantos really matured from a kid who doesn't think things through to, by the end of the book, a true man who had been through a lifetime of experiences in a little time. Overall, I would recommend "Hole in My Life" for anyone wanting to read a book that can physically impact your life. There are many life lessons that can be learned and applied to your own life through reading this book. Thank you
mccallieswim More than 1 year ago
The book "Hole in My Life" is about a young adult (Jack Gantos) traveling through the emotional hardships of life as a teenager and becoming a writer. It starts out as he is in school and he gets drunk at the bar and smokes his brains out. Then his family is moving. But he needs to finish up school so he moves in with another family in Florida. He is eventually kicked out of the house for vomiting all over the living room after another night of partying and drinking and has to support himself while living in a Davy Crockett apartment/motel. After living in the apartment for a while he moves back to his family in St. Croix where a black revolution is going on. When he is offered (what seems like) the opportunity of a lifetime he tells his dad he is going to sail a boat carting 2,000lbs of hash. Jack navigates the boat all the way to New York mildly unscathed. Where he and the two people that hired him begin dealing the hash they had smuggled. After he gets paid he is basically "just chillin'" until the cops bust his partners and the punks snitch on him. Then he is wanted by the FBI and agrees to turn himself in. He gets out of the clank after serving only 15 months of prison time, when they let him on parole to complete college. I am not a big reader or anything but this book really grabbed my attention from the moment I read the first word. It wasn't the normal book where I dreaded reading it, I actually wanted to read it. Jack's creative and descriptive writing style makes it seem as though you are right there with him as he navigates the boat or is in prison. It never leaves you asking where or why, because you can see the walls of his cell or the boat as it hits shore multiple times. This is a great book for teenagers and young adults as it shows you how one choice can change your life. It is a great story about how he went from making mistakes to being the sophisticated writer that he is now.
R0B3RT More than 1 year ago
"Hole in My Life", a memoir by Jack Gantos, adds photographic detail through his words to a dark and serious genre that would otherwise be frank and depressing. With well placed humor and true to life descriptions, you can't help but picture everything even when you don't want to. Throughout his criminal escapade, Gantos continues down his increasingly narrow future. Although his memoir details his smuggling operation, Gantos makes it clear that his book is truly about his becoming a writer. This book, unlike countless others, has really left me with something to take away. He reminded me of how even when something looks like it could be the best option, it might end up being the exact opposite. Gantos explained how unfair the association is between a bad kid and a desperate kid. Throughout his teenage and young adult life, Gantos had been put in the wrong places. His memoir not only showed the consequences of disobeying the law, but also how unfortunate a talented person can be. In the end, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an enthralling yet serious read.
Austin97 More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos made a mistake as a young adult that completely changed his life. He had always aspired to be an author, but was unable to put his thoughts and writings together until he went on a trip that ultimately altered the way he writes. This true story of adventure, mistakes, and misfortune keeps you wanting to read more and more. Jack Gantos does a phenomenal job incorporating short bursts of humor all throughout the book. This book is filled with moments that put you on the edge of your seat such as getting their boat loaded with 2 tons of hashish stuck in military waters. Since the author is the one telling his own story, it is incredibly detailed, and it is all completely true. His dream of getting a college education would eventually come true and give him his lucky break after landing in jail when he gets busted for smuggling drugs. Personally, this one is definitely in my top ten books to read. The sheer magnitude of the situation that Gantos eventually ended up in really forces you to pay attention to details and just take everything in. It is almost like he is relaying you his account of the story while sitting right next to you. This book made me realize that if you are put in the worst situations you can change yourself for the better in ways that you may have never thought possible. Reading this book has changed the way I think and proceed with my life. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From living in an apartment alone his senior year of high-school, to making his way out of federal prison, Gantos gives an account of his life that is both easy and fun to read. He does an exceptional job of incorporating the actual events with his thoughts and feelings. Through this, the reader receives a deeper understanding of the actions that are actually taking place. His humor, wit, and overall self-expressive writing creates a book with hardly a dull moment. Many wrong decisions formed the situation that Gantos eventually found himself in. At the time he was presented the opportunity to sail 2,000 pounds of hash to N.Y for $10,000, he was overwhelmingly unhappy with his situation in St. Croix. This unhappiness caused him to take the chance that was in front of him. By taking this opportunity, only to create a future for himself, Gantos instead found himself prolonging his college opportunity serving time in jail. "Hole in My Life" is an amazingly well written book about a man stuck in the darkness of his mistakes, turning his life around and coming into the light of what he always wanted to be, a writer. After meeting with Gantos at my school I realized the writer he became is one who never lets any thoughts escape his head. He never leaves you wondering why he did what he did in the book, and at the same time gives an astonishingly descriptive narration of the events that took place. I would recommend this book for anyone looking to hear Gantos' story of his miraculous turn around in a way that is both thoughtful and excitingly written.