Review of “Hole in my Life” by Jack Gantos



Hole in my Life is an interesting memoir about Jack Gantos’ early life and the events that led to him becoming a writer. Hole in my Life does a good job of explaining Gantos’ complicated/pressured situation, and why he chose to become involved in the situation that led to his arrest and stint in prison. As a person who is usually hard on adolescent crime, I think I needed to read this book. This book helped me realize that the reasons that (young) people commit crimes is usually complex and due to factors outside of their control. I think that if Gantos had had more opportunities, he would never have became involved with drugs. The book also discusses the horrors of prison; although prison horror stories are everywhere, I think it is still important to be aware of how bad/dangerous prison can be.

Gantos’ account was mostly a sincere, unapologetic retelling of the events that led up to his arrest, but I did question some aspects of the novel. What bothered me most about Gantos’ logic is that he seemed to justify many of his decisions by reminding the reader of his literary ambitions. He chose to become involved in criminal activity, but he seemed to justify this because other writers have also been involved in criminal activity? It’s silly logic. “Oh, Jack Kerouac and Burroughs and Ginsberg and all those guys experimented with drugs and look how great they were! Maybe if I experimented with drugs, I would be great too!” “I’m going to try to interview really violent men because Hemingway threw himself into the danger of battle.” I understand how those actions worked for those writers, but you shouldn’t intentionally throw yourself into these situations to emulate your favorite writers. It also seemed like Gantos rarely took full responsibility for his actions. I know that he was young during all of these events, but he had to have been aware of the consequences of his actions.

My favorite thing about the book was Gantos’ interest in/love of literature and writing. He was a well-read adolescent, and literature obviously impacted him on a very deep and important level. I think he would make reading and literature “cool” for younger readers. For that reason, I kind of hope that this book is incorporated more frequently in high school curriculums.

Overall, the book provides an interesting perspective of juvenile crime, and it is also a unique portrayal of one man’s relationship with literature and writing. I think this would be a great book to take into a high school classroom. Gantos’ life was transformed through literature and writing, and this is something that I want to pass on to my high school students.