House Arrest – 4.5 Star Review

“and I didn’t have the heart to tell her

she’s mistaking bravery

for flat-out

desperation.”

-House Arrest by K.A. Holt

One of my least read genres is poetry. To be flat out honest, I feel like it goes over my head sometimes and I am not the best at digging down and interpreting abstract ideas. We have a yearly reading challenge over at Monthly Book Club on Facebook and one of the bonus prompts is a poetry book. Lucky for me, poetry as a genre has offered more options than it did when I was in high school. I’ve read and enjoyed a few novels in verse such as Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and Identical by Ellen Hopkins so I decided to look for fiction poetry books similar to those. I found House Arrest by K.A. Holt and gave it a go. I’m glad I did!

House Arrest is written as a weekly journal format by a 12 year old boy named Timothy who is sentenced to house arrest after committing a crime. The goal is for Timothy to use the journal as a way to reflect and process his feelings about what he’s done to avoid being sent to a juvenile detention facility. Through his entries we “meet” his therapist, his parole officer, family friends that live a few houses down and his extremely heartbreaking home life. Timothy was sentenced to house arrest after stealing someone’s credit card and using it to buy his extremely ill baby brother his medicine that his family is struggling to pay for. This really sets the tone for the novel as we see how badly Timothy’s family is struggling.

This is a perfect middle grade book and one that prompts great discussion. Timothy commits a crime, but his intentions were well placed. Is house arrest (with threatening juvie) a viable punishment for a child’s first offense where no one was threatened or injured? Should the family situation be taken into consideration? A crime is a crime, but should empathy come into play at all? Who is the asshole that pressed charges against this poor kid and his struggling family?! (Okay, maybe that question is not to be discussed with kids but is a thought I definitely had.) This book is inherently sad, but also a great story for middle graders to see situations that (I hope) are outside of their own. Timothy’s family situation is reality for many households and situations aren’t always black and white.

I rated this 4 stars at first because the novel ended rather abruptly and I was left feeling pretty unsatisfied with the ending. Once I saw that there is a second novel (through the perspective of Timothy’s ill baby brother, but years later), I bumped it up to a 4.5 rating. There is a little section in Timothy’s journal where there is a relationship beginning to blossom between his parole officer and his therapist and I’m not entirely sure why that was needed, especially in a MG book. Overall, very impressed with this story and I encourage others not to let a “middle grade” tag scare you off as an adult. This genre can still foster great conversation and make you feel something, no matter if you are suffering through the sixth grade or enjoying your retirement, with everything in between.

-Review by Kelly

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