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Saturday, November 7, 2015

House Arrest, written by K. A. Holt. Chronicle Book, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 12 and up

"I walked out
and went to the only place I can go,
even though technically
I should have told Mom
where I was going,
and even though technically
I should have told Jose's mom
that I was coming.
But here I am.
I won't stay long.
I just need to catch my breath."

This is another one of those novels in verse that I tore through, wanting to understand Timothy's anger and actions. We know from the beginning that things have gone badly wrong for him. He has been given house arrest by a judge in response to his theft of a wallet. In order to avoid 'juvie' he must abide by the conditions of this judgement: meet weekly with a designated parole officer, see a psychologist, and keep a journal to help him find an outlet for his emotions. The entries tell the whole story, and offer the reader a chance to grow to know and honor Timothy for the way his life has evolved.

Timothy is 12. He and his mother work day and night to keep his sick baby brother safe from a condition that could rob him at any moment of the ability to breathe. His brother is dependent on a trach tube to keep him from choking. The tube constantly clogs, and the machines that he is dependent upon for life are perpetual reminders of how tenuous that life really is. All of this leads Tim to steal the wallet and use the credit card inside to buy the medication Levi needs, because his mother does not have the money to pay for it herself.

They do have some help, but not nearly enough for the 24 hour daily care that Levi needs. His father is gone. House arrest from the judge is not much different from the life that Timothy and his mother are living anyway. There are times when he is the only one there to deal with the emergencies, and the care. As we read his journal entries, we are privy to his anger at his father, his frustration with the lack of services available for a critically ill child, and his need to help make the situation better.

"I bet it's so easy
just so super easy
to take a
when you are not the one
or even one of the ones
When you are not the one
or even one of the ones
staying up all night
doing the suctioning
cleaning the barf
carrying the oxygen tanks
wiping the tears.
Let's wait and see
if we all go crazy
or if the bank takes the house.
That sounds like a great plan,

Timothy realizes that he has the support of a fine man in James, his parole officer, and a caring and compassionate woman in Mrs. B, his therapist. Touches of humor lighten the reader's load, and a forward trajectory for Timothy and his family is promising. But, there is much work to be done to help him find a peaceful and happier place in life.

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