Hole in My Life

Hole in My Life

by Jack Gantos

Paperback(Large Print)

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From the Newbery Award–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, this is a memoir about becoming a writer the hard way. A Printz Honor and Sibert Honor book.

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.

Jack Gantos is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of books for readers of all ages, including Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book. His book The Trouble in Me is an autobiographical novel about a fourteen-year-old Jack Gantos, and his book Dead End in Novelt won the Newbery Medal, the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction.

Praise for Hole in My Life:

“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

Awards for Hole in My Life:

School Library Best Books of the Year

Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library

Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year

Michael L. Printz Award - Honor

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

NYPL Books for the Teen Age

ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon Award

Massachusetts Children's Book Award

American Library Association Notable Children's Books

Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List

American Library Association Popular Paperbacks for Young Readers

Parents' Choice Award Winner

Robert F. Sibert Award - Honor

School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

ALA Notable Children's Books

Booklist Editors' Choice

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786273379
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 03/14/2005
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 267
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.63(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About 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; the Joey Pigza series, which include a Newbery Honor book and a National Book Award Finalist; Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction; and the Rotten Ralph series.

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.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
1 / look straight ahead,
2 / misfit,
3 / king's court,
4 / pair of jacks,
1 / st. croix,
2 / bon voyage,
3 / ship's log,
4 / I love new york,
1 / evidence,
2 / face-to-face,
3 / a long, long day,
4 / my yellow cell,
5 / drug lust,
6 / marking time,
7 / getting out,
8 / a closed book,
By Jack Gantos,
Copyright Page,

Reading Group Guide


In Hole in My Life, Jack Gantos recounts an experience from his own life that many other writers would rather keep hidden from public view. In the summer of 1971, the young

Gantos, desperate for cash for college and willing to take a risk, runs a boatload of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York

City. For this job, he is to receive $10,000. In reality, he gets a six-year prison sentence.

This hauntingly frank story is a slice-of-life autobiography that examines the events leading up to Gantos's decision to take part in illegal activities. He doesn't make excuses;

he doesn't rationalize his behavior by saying he was young and foolish and impressionable.

Instead, what Gantos does so wonderfully in this book is to confront the mistakes of his past head-on with no apologies.

Gantos talks about his less than stellar final year of high school, his restless search for something to do after graduation, and his rash decision to earn money quickly. Without a great deal of thought, he accepts an offer from an acquaintance, Rik, to help run a boat filled with hashish to New York. Once he and the skipper, Hamilton, are in the city, Gantos helps his cohorts sell the drugs. Then he begins to relax, telling himself that perhaps things will work out, that his part in this escapade will remain a secret. But that is not to be. Rik is busted and snitches before

Hamilton and Gantos even arrive in New

York. Unbeknownst to Gantos, all of his customers have been rounded up and have provided statements identifying him. Gantos is the last one to be caught and therefore cannot "cooperate" by providing names of drug contacts in St. Croix. At the trial, the prosecutor, stating his belief that Gantos is withholding information, recommends incarceration. Gantos's log of the journey is also used against him, and he is left to face severe consequences for his actions.

The result: a sentence harsher than his companions'.

Once in prison, Gantos has the opportunity to reflect more sensibly on his career goal —

to become a writer — and to set up a carefully developed plan for reaching it. At first the goal seems elusive. The harsh day-to-day existence inside the prison makes Gantos wonder if he will ever be able to realize any of his dreams.

However, determination to prove himself propels Gantos forward into action, positive actions that ultimately lead to his release from prison and the beginning of his new life.

Gantos's frankness and his ability to critically examine his impetuous youth blend seamlessly to create a story at once riveting with excitement while tempered with caveats for the reader. Never preachy, this book instead gives readers a chance to observe Gantos,

to draw their own conclusions about his behavior, and, most important, to benefit from his experience.

Classroom Connections

Since reading, language arts, and English curricula often contain overlapping skills and strategies, this autobiography can be used in any setting that encourages students to read and respond to print. Hole in My Life offers teachers the chance to utilize a text that is nonfiction in genre yet employs several of the same techniques used in fiction. Many state tests rely on nonfiction selections in their reading component, so this book can help students read nonfiction effectively.

Additionally, several standards in social studies may be addressed with this book.

Language Arts /English /Reading Standards:

This guide meets the following standards from the International Reading Association (IRA)

and the National Council of Teachers of

English (NCTE):

• Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United

States and the world; to acquire new information;

to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.

Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction,

classic and contemporary works.

• Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts,

their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., soundletter correspondence, sentence structure,

context, graphics).

• Students apply knowledge of language structure,

language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective,

creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

• Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Social Studies Standards:

This guide meets the standards of the National

Council for the Social Studies.

• Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

• Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of individual development and identity. Personal identity is shaped by one's culture, by groups,

and by institutional influences. How do people learn? Why do people behave as they do? What influences how people learn, perceive, and grow? How do people meet their basic needs in a variety of contexts? Questions such as these are central to the study of how individuals develop from youth to adulthood. Examination of various forms of human behavior enhances understanding of the relationships among social norms and emerging personal identities,

the social processes that influence identity formation, and the ethical principles underlying individual action.

Pre-Reading Activity

What is the significance of the title? What could cause a "hole" in someone's life? What do students think the story will be about?

Does the photo of Gantos facing the title page give any clue as to his identity? What conclusions about this person could a reader draw from the photograph alone?

Would the conclusions differ when paired with the title?

Discussion n Much of the story is told in flashback. The opening chapter refers to Gantos's prison photo and the food in the prison. Then Gantos reflects on something from his childhood.

This collapsing of settings/time frames could be confusing without the use of literary techniques. How does the author signal whether he is talking about something in the distant past versus the setting/time frame of the story?

n Go through the book and make a list of the titles of each chapter. How does Gantos signal the reader ahead of time about what will occur in the chapter? What kinds of clues do the chapter titles provide?

n As you read through the chapters, keep a chart of the decisions Gantos made that culminated in his trip to smuggle drugs. For instance, in chapter 2, he talks about living on his own as a teen and wandering through casinos and drinking. How did these early actions lead up to the one that changed the course of his life?

n The story is divided into three sections.

Why do you think the author decided to separate parts of the story? What important event occurs in each part?

n In part 1, chapter 4, Gantos refers to On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Look up a synopsis of this book, or read an excerpt from its early chapters. Why do you think Gantos was enamored of the life described by Kerouac?

What connections do you see between Gantos and Kerouac?

n "I have learned this: it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it." How does this quote from Oscar Wilde (found on the epigraph page) reflect the major theme of this book?

How does Gantos change as a result of what he has done wrong? What does he "become"

that might not have happened without his experiences in prison?

Reaching across the


Social Studies

This story could be used to focus on current events as they relate to topics such as prisons,

prison life, drugs, drug abuse, drug smuggling.

Students could be placed in groups and given some choices about possible topics to explore. After students have had the chance to complete their research using print and nonprint materials, their information could be presented in the form of a traditional report,

a Power Point presentation, or a Web site designed to provide readers with links to sites related to the individual topics. Alternatively,

students could research similar topics as they relate to other countries. What is the prison system like in Britain or Russia? How does the criminal justice system in the United

States differ from that of Australia or Japan?

Teachers can tailor these comparisons to curricular demands.

Additionally, map skills could be a topic chosen by the students, as they trace the route sailed by Gantos from the Virgin Islands to

New York.

Reading / Language Arts

Throughout the book, Gantos refers to the saving power of books and reading. In the list at right, he identifies books that were important to him as he worked through his time in prison. However, he also refers to reading as something like a drug. Gantos used books to comfort himself in times of trouble,

to distract him from his problems. How can reading be both beneficial and detrimental?

Ask students to write in their journals about this almost schizophrenic approach to books and reading. Ask them to provide examples from their own lives that mirror this conflicted view. Are there other elements in their lives that are similar? For instance, what about the positive and negative effects of Internet surfing? Of music? Of television? Etc.

Alternatively, students could be asked to select one of the books from the list below, read it,

and write about why they think this particular book was important in Gantos's life.

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Hole in My Life 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 132 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.
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.
librarychicgeek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Popular children's author Jack Gantos tells the true story of how he wanted to become a writer in his youth and his foolish choice to sail a ship carrying hash into NYC resulting in a six year jail term. Honest, gripping read.
laurenryates on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos was a high school student living in Florida with his parents when his father got a job in Puerto Rico with a construction company. His family could not afford private school and he did not speak Spanish, so he convinced his family to let him move back to Florida and live with a family while he finished high school so he could eventually become a writer. While he was living without his parents, he started to get in trouble with alcohol and the family kicked him out of their house. He moved into a low rate motel and finished out the school year. After he graduated, he took a road trip through the Florida Keys and saw where some famous writers had lived to inspire himself. He moved to St. Croix to help his father with his business, but the race riots were really heated there during the 1970s. The business was not doing well and he had little time to write. He helped a man, Rik, who needed him to build a box with a false bottom. Rik was using the box to smuggle hashish out of St. Croix. Rik later recruits Jack to help sail a boat full of hash from St. Croix to New York with an eccentric British man named Hamilton. Their journey was long and filled with days of drug induced stupors. The two men arrive in New York only to be taken in by the Feds. Rik had gotten caught with the false bottom box and had set them up to make a deal with the police. Jack goes to prison where he serves 15 months and has a job as an X-ray technician. With the help of his boss and his caseworker, he gets out early on the conditions that he has a stable job, place to live and goes to school. He still has emotional anxiety about his time in jail, but I think that it helped him straighten out his life to become a successful writer. The book is beautifully written with lots of comedic moments, as well as melodrama, which is good for any young adult reader. He shares his story as a way to help motivated youth to not take the risky path that could lead to self destruction, but to just work hard and do everything right the first time. His time in prison could have been elaborated a little more, there seemed to be more about his boring time on the ship rather than his experiences in prison, which I think more people would be interested in hearing about. I really liked the fact that he did not seem to make excuses for his own actions, but just that he was young and looking for an easy way off of the island with bad decisions. Its a lesson we all learn at one point in our lives.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos is the 2012 Newbery Medal winner as well as a previous Newbery honor winner.In 1971 when he was 20 years old, he foolishly made a grave mistake when, for $10,000, he agreed to sail a 60 foot yacht packed with hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City.This Printz award-winning autobiography focuses on his 15 month stint in federal prison.A testimony to overcoming flawed judgement in youth, moving on to an award-winning career, while this book is located in the YA section, it should have a label "For Mature Audiences".Guardedly recommended.
Marshahawkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gantos¿ story is surprisingly funny and honest. Reading this book is like sitting down with your older brother and hearing his story in a non-judgmental, honest tone. Gantos¿ language is approachable for teenagers and he presents his story in a way that is readable and intelligent. It¿s easy, as adults, to want to forget the mistakes we make as teenagers, but Gantos has well-preserved his ability to be honest with himself and his readers, making this story a reminder to teens and adults alike that teens are works in progress.
jessnetterville on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Federal prison¿at the age of 20. Who thinks they will ever end up there? Certainly not Jack Gantos, the author of hole in my life. He is a young man responsible enough to finish his senior year of high school while living on his own. And he is smart enough and conscious enough to read novels and philosophy far beyond his years. But he was not experienced enough to say no to an opportunity to earn $10,000. But not many would say no in his situation: no college scholarships, no job prospects, no family holding him back, and a violent racial uprising happening just down the street. Taking the chance, Jack helps pilot a sail boat from St. Croix to New York, smuggling two thousand pounds of hash. Obviously, he is caught and sentenced to an undefined time in federal prison. While there, he begins to write, something he always knew he wanted to do, but never had the confidence. Besides, prison gives him plenty to write about: lice, homemade weapons, fighting, x-rays, rape, sodomy, parole hearings, Elvis impersonators, and of course, more drug use and smuggling. But writing is what is what he thinks most about, and it is what eventually becomes of him. Overall, what he discovers is what he aptly quotes Oscar Wilde for, ¿¿it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it.¿
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If the purpose of a YA memoir is to be a cautionary tale, I suppose this is a good one. Certainly it will make any teen think twice about accepting a job on a sailboat that's running drugs from St. Croix to New York. But perhaps Gantos's story of life in prison will not prove to be such a disincentive, since he gets a job in the prison hospital and never has to live with the general population. His biggest problem seems to be boredom. So yes, be cautioned, but Gantos's experiences overall are too atypical to really have much chance of changing the course of someone's life.
rdwhitenack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to rate this book higher than the 3-stars I gave it, because I did enjoy it, and it was a page turner. However, I just can't. I liked the story, but I know that the young readers for whom the book was written will be a bit upset by the limited amount of time spent on detailing his experiences in jail. The one thing that haunts me the most about this book, is the old adage of there being two sides to every story, which I would love to hear from those that are part of this story: the boat mates, his parents, co-prisoners, the prison psychologist. I just get the feeling that there were important details that were left out that would identify his character, and more perspective would fill those gaps.A very nice compliment for a book, though perhaps backhanded, is that the book could have been a bit longer. With 50-100 more pages the book could have cured many of it's shortcomings.Despite my critique I would highly recommend this book for teens especially those that are "at-risk" or for students that show an interest in writing.
JackieHancox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely candid autobiography of how Jack Gantos ended up in, and spent 15 months in a federal prison for drug smuggling as a young adult. It is an honest, sometimes harrowing, straightforward account of his fears, failings and mistakes. It was hard not to feel empathetic towards the author as I was reading this book and hail his success at finding his way as an author.
mediaguy80 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos tells his own true story, and it is amazing. His biography takes readers from his search for meaning as a young adult through his decision to committ a crime that threatened his future and put his life at risk. Although his story is compelling, I would highly recommend it to others (as a form of bibliotherapy), some younger readers may not find the storyline as exciting as some adults find it. There is also some mature content, but nothing too explicit for a more mature young adult.
lawral on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With the mugshot on the front and all they hype about this being a "prison memoir," readers may be a bit mislead. While Gantos does indeed talk about his unique prison experience, that is not the content that makes up the bulk of this book. Because the reader knows that a stint in prison is in store for Gantos, he uses it as the shadow that darkens everything leading up to his capture by federal agents. This leaves the reader feeling that this path was completely inevitable, rather than something that happened to Gantos because of a series of choices he himself made.With an essentially uplifting ending, Hole in my Life fails to give the reader a true look into Gantos' life experiences or mind. His extended use of literary allusions a wide variety of sources keeps the reader either in the dark or on a goose chase looking for Gantos' meaning in other people's work. The overall effect is that of a watered down version of a story we have all already heard, with a large dose of "if I only knew then" on the side.
librarymeg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jack Gantos uses this book to tell the story of how he ended up in prison at a young age. When he was a junior in high school, his family moved to Puerto Rico where he chose to work rather than finish high school. He earned some extra money wiring a tourist's hotel, and went back to Florida for his senior year of high school before rejoining his family, now on the island of St. Croix. Gantos, who had aspirations of becoming a great writer, quickly saw that he would go nowhere staying on St. Croix. When he received an offer of $10,000 to help smuggle a boat full of hash into the United States he saw an opportunity to earn enough money for a quality education as a writer. Making that journey was the mistake that changed his life. Gantos is perfectly frank about his previous actions and about life in prison. I thought it was a well-written and honest autobiography that shows how it is possible to change the direction of your life, and I really enjoyed it.
bplma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How many children's book authors would write a memoir about serving time in federal prison for drug running during their young adult years? Jack Gantos would-- and did so brilliantly with this Prinze and Siebert award winning book. Written in a style that is very reminiscent of the Joey Pigza series, Gantos gives an honest and frank account of his late teen life and the actions and choices he made that led to his being convicted of drug running at age 19 and sentenced to federal prison for several years. The story is well told and compelling; funny and horrifying and sad and uplifting. We like Gantos and we care what happens to him, even as we cringe for him as he makes what we all know are terrible decisions that will have terrible consequences. And prison is tough-- Gantos is quite skillful in his ability to portray prison as a very violent and scary place-- full of sex and drugs-- and he does so honestly (important for all of us, yes, but especially so for young adults) but without sensationalizing it. No easy feat. And it was the constant violence and fear and hopelessness of prison life that forced Gantos to soul search and, finally, to make a decision to get serious about what he had always wanted to do--to write, to become a writer...a decision that not only carried him through the rest of his sentance, but one that Gantos credits with carrying him through the rest of his life. YES, YES, YES
jyasinchuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In prison for fifteen months, a young man has a lot of time to go from thinking about writing to becoming a writer. Popular and award winning author, Jack Gantos, shares a riveting memoir about his incarceration as a naive smuggler, and freely acknowledges his own shortcomings. Even more so, Gantos does not self-aggrandize his transition from drifting slacker to convict to living the life he imagined for himself. And he does another rare thing: he communicates the real joy he has found in life (i.e. well-loved books) without romanticizing or going over the top. I simply could not put this book down! Recommended for Grades 8 and up--especially anyone who dares to dream and work hard to improve their lot in life--and adults, too. "Hole in My Life" also presents numerous opportunities as a valuable resource in many different curriculum areas. Why can't all young adult non-fiction be THIS good?
FosterYA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is super-awesome and is whole-heartedly recommended to teens ages 12-18 and also for adults. Such a good book! Can't believe it all really happened!
Emibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author tells the story of how he ended up in prison for trying to sell drugs. It is told in narrative form. It contains some references to rape, violence, and drug use, but not in extensive detail.
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