Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: 053805: Life at Fifteen - Robert J. Gagnon

053803 Life at Fifteen
053803: Life at Fifteen - Robert J. Gagnon
Paperback - 336 Pages
Published by R. J. Gagnon Publishing, 2006
Borrowed from Karmin

GoodReads Review:
Before the time of youthful offender camps, a fifteen year old bank robber is sentenced to life in adult prison.  Covering a 9 1/2 year period from 1975 through 1985, the author gives a vivid description of how he survived by using his wits, luck, and creative remedies.  Insightful, informative and at times humorous, prison life is explained from a unique perspective that anyone can relate to.  Thorough descriptions of actual escapes and a prison riot are included along with a breakdown of prison policies and inmate mentality.  

Listed in the National Criminal Justice Referral Service Library as a study aid for its social and educational value.  Currently under review for suggested reading in Florida high school reading groups.

My Review:
I was extremely intrigued by the review of this book on GoodReads.  As a lover of all crime type books I really thought this would be so interesting.  I was getting to go inside prison as a 15 year old boy, and see what things were really like.  

The story started out really slow, and I was hoping that the pace would pick up.  Unfortunately it never did, but overall I was interested in what was going to happen to Robert.  I found myself extremely upset in the beginning because I just can't understand how a juvenile would be charged and sentenced to life in prison for a botched burglary.  I really felt like from the get go he was doomed.  

There were many times throughout the book that I just felt bad for him, however there were many times that I was cheering for him.  He was able to use his wits and humor to make it through 9 years in an adult prison.  While I realized that a lot of the things he described happen, I just didn't realize that the adults in the prison would treat a juvenile the way that they did.  If he wasn't so smart and quick on his feet, I don't know if he would have made it through.  

The ending was heartwarming, and I'm glad to know that eventually everything worked out.  I just was extremely frustrated about how he was treated.  I don't know the laws in Florida, so I don't know if what he did would qualify for life in prison, but even during his parole hearings I thought he was treated like crap.
I really enjoyed all of the descriptions of what went down during his years in prison, and I could really relate to what he was going to (even though I've never been in jail before).  It is much of the same stuff that we go through in the free world, only a little harder.  While his descriptions of the "bossmen" (guards) irked me a little, I'm sure that is how they act.  He portrayed them as jerks that really just liked to beat the hell out of inmates/convicts just to show them who's boss.  You have to think about it from their point of view too.  They've got hundreds of men locked up in a confined area that have all been convicted of a they've gotta show some authority.

I enjoyed the book, however I did feel that it was really slow and some of the grammar and punctuation irritated me.

My Recommendation
I would recommend this to pretty much anyone that hasn't served jail time (and even those that have).  I think that it was a very informative book, and really showed how growing up in prison can affect someone.

3 out of 5 stars

Happy Reading!

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