Jack Gantos tells the story of his high school days, living in a cheap hotel, going to high school and working in Florida while his family moved to the Virgin Islands. Upon graduation he headed down to St. Croix to meet them and arrived in the midst of a Revolution. He ended up smuggling hash up to New York, where he was caught and served several years in federal prison. Throughout this time Gantos struggled to try to become a writer and it was only while he was in prison that he really learned what was important and why he was struggling so much as a writer.
This was a great read. Gantos' narration style is first person friendly. It feels like someone is telling you their story and it works well for the message he is trying to convey. The text is never preachy or didactic even though there are clearly lessons to be learned from the author's story.
Gantos also doesn't pull any punches. His story is very violent and terrifying at times and he could have glossed those things over but he didn't. He's honest about his mistakes and how long it really took him to figure things out.
However I don't want anyone thinking this book is all gloom and doom. It does have it's funny moments, both funny ha ha and funny awkward. All in all it feels like a well rounded book that is short (which many of the teens I know love) with a lot of great discussion points.