House Arrest, by K.A. Holt, is a touching look into the life of 12-year-old Timothy, a boy who has been court-ordered to keep a journal while completing a year of house arrest for stealing. During this year, he must also meet regularly with his therapist and his probation office. On top of all this, Timothy attempts to navigate life with a sick baby brother, a grieving and over-worked mother, an absent father, and the usual middle school trials of homework, friendship, and growing awareness of the opposite sex.
I picked up this book at BEA and didn’t think much of it. I had it in the pile of books coming out in October, but because of work and volunteer stuff I didn’t actually get around to reading it until my aunt (shout out to ShelfieTalk) mentioned it on the phone. Even so, I didn’t realize it was a novel written in verse until I finally opened it up this past Sunday.
Well, let me tell you, House Arrest is the kind of book that makes you wonder why all novels aren’t written in verse. It was the perfect way to capture Timothy’s voice – and that’s saying something because poetry isn’t really a go to way to describe a 12-year-old boys thought processes. Still, the verse structure allowed for pauses and abrupt changes in thought that perfectly imitate how I imagine a young boy would try to make sense of a world that is sometimes overwhelmingly unfair. Plus the journal format works well for capturing private thoughts and public ones (Timothy frequently addresses his therapist and his probation officer in it, as he knows the journal is monitored to measure his growth). This creates an interesting juxtaposition between vulnerability and frustration.
Timothy himself is impossible not to like. His situation is a hard one; he is forced into maturity and responsibility because of his sick sibling (his brother was born with a weak trachea and requires a tube in his throat to breath) and his father leaving, yet he is still just a child himself. His love for his brother and mother runs throughout the novel and informs nearly all his decisions, good and bad. But these are not the only significant relationships he has.
While this is the story of a boy making his way through life, it is also the story of the community that grows around Timothy and his family. Timothy’s friend Jose and Jose’s family are giving and understanding (even if Jose sometimes fails to be entirely sympathetic) and Timothy’s therapist, Mrs. B, and probation officer, James, grow to be more than just court-ordered authorities Timothy must visit.
The relationships depicted in this book along with Timothy’s tenacity in the face of adversity make this the kind of book that makes you believe in goodness, in people. And for that, it’s worth a read.
Final verdict: A funny, heartwarming novel that makes for a feel good read without sugar-coating the realities of life. House Arrest is a quick read (partly because it’s written in verse, and partly because of the high quality of said verse) that makes you root for the young protagonist as he tries to simultaneously take care of his brother and be a kid himself.