Jack Gantos, hole in my life, 2004, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.
I know I haven't read much YA non-fiction yet but I feel inclined to say this book is my new YA-non fiction fav. As in, I'm a total Jack Gantos fan-girl omg!!! Er, well sort of. I DID really like this work and when I become a Young Adult Librarian this book is going on my list of recommended reading. Read on and you'll see why . . . .
When you think of what makes a children's author I'm sure the words 'ex-con' don't exactly come to mind. Nevertheless Jack Gantos is a well-known children's author who once upon a time (as in back in 1973), was a nineteen year old who got busted by the Feds for taking part in smugging hashish into NYC from St. Croix. That's not his whole story though. Jack tells us about the period of a couple years where he went from high school graduate to one-time drug smuggler to his decision to become a children's author. Unlike other stories of getting in with the wrong crowd and how teenagers go bad, this isn't a problem novel; and Jack isn't about to tell you he regrets his behavior. Jack doesn't BS the reader, he knows you'd probably feel the same way if you did the same thing and got caught.
I'm kicking myself now because when I helped out at an awards ceremony for YA student writers last spring, Jack Gantos was the Guest of Honor. In fact, the people in charge gave out this book to the winners and Jack signed the copies. I should have bought a copy and got him to sign it, but oh well. In writing this book Gantos has done a superb job. While his character does engage in recreational drug use and some months of crime to smuggle that one load of hashish, he neither condemns his actions nor glamorizes them. They are what they are, his experiences, his decisions, his past. You may identify with it or else find it completely alien to your own life experiences. I haven't read anything else he has written (children's or otherwise) so I can't say how it compares to that. I can say that the style of his writing is engaging. You don't read it because it keeps you on your seat nor because you're secretly hoping Jack gets shot by the drug smugglers, it is the way he tells his story that draws you in and keeps you there even though you know all along how the story will end.