This fiery autobiographical novel captures a pivotal week or two in the life of fourteen-year-old Jack Gantos, as the author reveals the moment he began to slide off track as a kid who in just a few years would find himself locked up in a federal penitentiary for the crimes portrayed in the memoir Hole in My Life. Set in the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of his family’s latest rental home, The Trouble in Me opens with an explosive encounter in which Jack first meets his awesomely rebellious older neighbor, Gary Pagoda, just back from juvie for car theft. Instantly mesmerized, Jack decides he will do whatever it takes to be like Gary. As a follower, Jack is eager to leave his old self behind, and desperate for whatever crazy, hilarious, frightening thing might happen next. But he may not be as ready as he thinks when the trouble in him comes blazing to life.
Booklist, starred review
“Know thyself, Alexander Pope advises us, and Gantos does that in spades in this insightful prequel to his award-winning memoir Hole in My Life (2002) . . . One of the tools the spellbinding Gantos uses in this incendiary fictionalized memoir is simile and metaphor. Fire is a recurring motif (it’s what brings the boys together and informs their developing relationship): meat drippings that Jack grills crisp like someone burning at the stake and mosquitoes are winged formations of humming hypodermics. Abundant style and substance makes this an irresistible cautionary tale . . . Gantos has won a Newbery Medal, Printz Honor, Sibert Honor, and countless hearts. Readers will want to know how he became one of a kind.”
“Full of ‘don’t try this at home’ moments . . . Jack’s interior monologue also has a heartbreaking edge. “
“Jack’s narrative has a Wimpy Kid tone and appeal as, looking back, he’s well-aware of his own youthful fecklessness . . . Readers will laugh . . . at Jack’s reckless antics and lack of impulse control, but they will probably also sympathize with his deep itch to make a change.”