I have not read very much literature about being in prison, but from what I’ve seen and heard, Hole In My Life seems to be a very genuine portrayal of a young man’s struggle to rise above his situation, even when he feels despair all around him, and even when he is not free. The economy of language that Jack Gantos uses is stunning. At first, the very simple, minimalist sentence structure annoyed me, but I grew to really appreciate it more and more as Jack’s life became vastly more complicated with his impending incarceration. And what’s more, I think that even though the subject matter is very heavy, because of the pithy sentence structure, this book would work for middle school as well as high school readers: for those both struggling with reading and who are already strong readers.
The other thing I really admired about this memoir was that it was a memoir with a message. No, Jack Gantos didn’t push, “don’t do drugs, drugs are bad,” constantly on the reader. The message instead felt more honest and genuine. Jack Gantos was honest about his drug abuse and about his desire to do drugs to help relieve his anxiety. He was even honest about the feelings that he had about drugs in the beginning: he was really more interested in starting his life than doing drugs, but drugs were available to him and he used them as a means to escape his low self-esteem. I found the message instead to be that his overwhelming desire to be a writer, to write something that mattered, is what really pulled him through a difficult time in his life. Instead of constantly repeating the thought of “Don’t do drugs,” the pattern to be found instead is this driving desire to be like his favorite authors. This motif is recurring throughout the memoir and makes it possible to see that he was able to turn despair into hope by focusing on his dreams.