Gantos does okay in school, but he doesn’t get too attached to people because his family moves a lot. His father takes a job out of the country forcing the family to move during his junior year of high school. They decide not to enroll him in school since he doesn’t speak Spanish, instead; they put him to work for his father. Gantos longs for something more…he wants to be a writer. He moves back to Florida and re-enrolls in his senior year (despite not having finished his junior year). He struggles in school this time and eventually follows his family to the Virgin Islands. In order to earn money for college, Gantos participates in a drug scheme—attempting to sail a large yacht full of hashish from the Virgin Islands to NYC. Eventually, he is caught by federal agents, arrested, and sentenced to six-years in prison. During his time in prison, he escapes the horrors of prison life through his writing and is released after a little over a year.
This book has won a number of awards: the Sibert Honor in 2003, the Massachusetts Book Award for Children's/Young Adult Literature in 2003, named a Printz Honor book in 2003, and was nominated for the Abraham Lincoln Award in 2007. Gantos tells the story of his life—or a small portion of it—in a “matter-of-fact” way that teens and adults alike can relate to.